Chiefs move McKenzie to flyhalf

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 12:12

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has made extensive changes to the ahead of their trans-Tasman contest with the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday.

In the forwards, Bay of Plenty hooker Sabastian Siataga earns his first start of his Super Rugby career after impressing in his debut off the bench in the Chiefs 26-18 win over the Hurricanes last Friday.

Siataga will pack down alongside Kane Hames and Nepo Laulala, who start in jerseys No.1 and No.3 respectively for the fourth consecutive week.

The second row remains unchanged from the opening three rounds, with Dominic Bird and Brodie Retallick set to continue their impressive locking partnership again this Friday.

Co-captain Sam Cane will don the No.7 jersey in his second appearance of the season.

He is joined by Tom Sanders and veteran Liam Messam, who return to the matchday 23 this week to complete the loose forward trio.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow makes his fourth consecutive start of the season at scrumhalf.

There are a number of exciting changes in the backline - beginning with Damian McKenzie who will start at flyhalf.

Stephen Donald will start in the No.12 jersey, with Anton Lienert-Brown shifting out this week to start at outside centre.

Solomon Alaimalo, a 21-year-old Northland outside back, will make his Super Rugby debut on the left wing, with Toni Pulu retaining the No.14 jersey.

The evasive Shaun Stevenson should prove a handful at fullback in his first start of the 2017 season.

In the reserves, Hika Elliot, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi and Atu Moli provide experienced front row cover, with the hard-working pair of Mitchell Brown and Mitchell Karpik looking to add impact off the bench.

Finlay Christie gets another opportunity this week following his debut game against the Hurricanes last Friday.

He is joined on the bench by co-captain Aaron Cruden and midfielder Johnny Faauli.

Chiefs: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Stephen Donald, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Sabastian Siataga, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Mitchell Brown, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 23 Johnny Faauli.

Date: Friday, March 17
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19.45 AEDT (21.45 NZDT; 08.45 GMT)
Referee: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 31 March 2017
Highlanders v Rebels 06h35 Dunedin
Sat, 01 April 2017
Blues v Force 04h15 Auckland
Chiefs v Bulls 06h35 Hamilton
Reds v Hurricanes 08h45 Suncorp Stadium
Stormers v Cheetahs 13h05 DHL Newlands
Zebre v Connacht 14h30 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Lions v Sharks 15h05 Ellis Park Stadium
Leinster v Wasps 15h15 Dublin
Munster v Toulouse 17h45 Limerick
Sun, 02 April 2017
Waratahs v Crusaders 06h05 Allianz Park
Saracens v Glasgow Warriors 13h00 Allianz Park
Clermont Auvergne v Toulon 15h15 Clermont-Ferrand
Mon, 03 April 2017
Maties v UJ 14h30 Stellenbosch
UP-Tuks v Shimlas 17h00 Pretoria
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Hurricanes 4 3 0 1 15
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Sharks 5 4 0 1 17
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