New Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper has selected a physical and experienced line-up to take on the Crusaders in their Super Rugby opener in Christchurch on Saturday.
The starting fifteen features five 2017 All Blacks in the pack alone, as well as the much-talked about combination of Brad Weber and Damian McKenzie in the number nine and ten jerseys.
"Everyone is talking about Damian, but it’s just about giving him time at ten," said Cooper.
"Brad is coming off injury, but played really well in the preseason and shows a lot of excitement if he can get into space”, said Colin Cooper.
The pack is looking strong and competitive with a tight five of Aidan Ross, Nathan Harris, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick and Dominic Bird.
"Mitchell Brown had a very good game against the Brumbies (in last weeks' pre-season match) and brings a lot of physicality," added Cooper.
"Sam Cane is an All Black with proven leadership, and a hard worker. Taleni Seu is new at number eight, but I like his skill, speed and power off the back of the scrum."
The midfield combination of Johnny Faauli and Anton Lienert-Brown is strong, and the back three of Solomon Alaimalo, Shaun Stevenson, and Co-captain Charlie Ngatai is particularly exciting for what they each bring to the field.
Chiefs: 15 Charlie Ngatai (cc), 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Taleni Seu, 7 Sam Cane (cc), 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Aidan Ross Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Atunaisa Moli, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Liam Messam, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Sean Wainui
Date: Saturday, February 24 Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch Kick-off: 19:35 local (06:35 GMT) Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand) Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand) TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)
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