Anton Lienert-Brown unlikely to take the field against Waratahs
Anton Lienert-Brown has shouldered a heavy load for the Chiefs this year, featuring in all but one match for the Super Rugby Aotearoa finalists and despite being named on the bench for the Chiefs’ final game of the season, there’s a very real chance he won’t take the field at all.
Like other senior All Blacks in the side, rests have been few and far between for Lienert-Brown.
The Chiefs started their Aotearoa campaign with a bye which meant they’ve only had one week off from action since the beginning of March.
Damian McKenzie’s suspension following the loss to the Reds has handed him some compulsory rests to finish off the competition while captain Brad Weber was benched for much of last weekend’s fixture with the Rebels. Lienert-Brown, on the other hand, has been called upon week after week.
This weekend, however, Lienert-Brown will finally be given the time off his body is likely craving, with the experienced midfielder named in the reserves for the Chiefs’ match-up with the Waratahs.
If everything goes as expected, however, the All Blacks centre won’t be called upon to front tonight.
“We’ve always planned on all of those guys – Anton, Webby, Damian, before he got suspended – to have some time out,” McMillan said of his team for Saturday evening. “Quinn [Tupaea] coming back in really well last week gives us the flexibility to put [Lienert-Brown] on the bench and everything going to plan, we won’t even use him.”
With experienced campaigner Sean Wainui also back on deck after missing the entirety of the Trans-Tasman competition to date through injury, his utility value means Lienert-Brown won’t necessarily be called upon even if injury does hit the mid-field.
“[Wainui] also sort of covers centre,” said McMillan. “Even though Anton’s in the matchday 23, if things go well, I’d love to be able to leave Anton on the side and if we get a bit of a ding, maybe shift Sean in one.”
As a hugely competitive player, it’s difficult to imagine Lienert-Brown being content with just sitting on the bench – but McMillan confirmed that the 49-cap All Black knows his role for tonight’s dead-rubber fixture.
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He also emphasised that Lienert-Brown had already finished off his season in the best way possible after scoring two tries against the Rebels last week and reaffirming his status as New Zealand’s premier midfielder.
“I’ve told him, and he had an outstanding game last week,” McMillan said. “He’s pretty content with himself at the moment.
“When we kick off, I know he’ll be desperate to get out there but he’s well aware of our plans and he’ll do whatever’s in the best interests of the team.”
While the Chiefs entered the final round with a mathematical chance of making the Trans-Tasman final, wins for the Hurricanes and Highlanders on Friday night scuppered any hopes of a spot in the ultimate game of the season.
Tonight’s fixture kicks off at 9:45pm AEST (7:45pm NZT) from Brookvale Oval in New South Wales.
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