Messam packs down at No.8
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Liam Messam has been moved off the bench to start at the back of the scrum for the Chiefs for their match against the Blues at Eden Park on Friday.
Messam replaces Michael Leitch who misses the match altogether in one of three changes to the side that lost 24-31 to the Crusaders in the previous round.
The other changes are in the backline where Johnny Faauli returns to the playing 23 to start at inside centre. The potent mid-fielder reunites with Anton Lienert-Brown who moves to outside centre for the Battle of the Bombays as Sam McNicol was not available for selection this week.
The final seeding order of the tightly contested New Zealand Conference is still anybody's guess just four rounds shy of the 2017 Super Rugby playoffs.
What can be guaranteed however, is that come Friday, two highly motivated and courageous Kiwi sides will throw everything at each other in the hopes of securing a win, which could prove season-defining.
Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Glen Fisiiahi, Liam Polwart, Charlie Ngatai, Sam McNicol, Stephen Donald and Toni Pulu.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Solomon Alaimalo, 23 Shaun Stevenson.
Date: Friday, May 26
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)