Chiefs bench Brad Weber and promote young halfback for Sydney 'home' game
Roe takes over from captain Brad Weber who has played ample minutes this year, starting in all but one of the Chiefs’ matches. Weber isn’t out of action altogether, however, and will enter the game from the bench.
It’s a first start for Roe, who’s amassed a handful of minutes from the bench in a number of games this season after impressing in his first campaign with Waikato but rarely had the time on the park to really stamp his mark.
“Bryn comes back into the starting mix having done nothing wrong over the first part of the year,” coach Clayton McMillan said of the change-up, “and we’ve liked glimpses of what we’ve seen Kaleb do at fullback and I don’t want to draw any comparisons but he’s probably somebody that can do a similar job [as McKenzie], starting at 15 and then coming into 10 later in the piece.
“Bryn’s been a good performer for us and it’s really just … over the last two or three weeks we’ve wanted to solidify a position for Damian – and that’s been at 10 – whereas earlier on in the competition we were happy to bring him from 15 to 10.”
Other changes to the backline see Quinn Tupaea make a return at No 12 after making his first appearance back from injury off the bench against the Reds, and the promotion of Shaun Stevenson onto the wing in place of Chase Tiatia.
In the forwards, Aidan Ross is given a rest after shouldering a heavy load this season. Ross has started the last four games on the trot and nine of the Chiefs’ past 10 matches. His spot is taken by 2018 All Blacks tourist Reuben O’Neill, who is on the comeback from a head knock.
“He’s started just about every game, Aidan, and he gets through big minutes,” McMillan said of the 25-year-old. “We usually try and get him through to about 60 or 70 and then the cavalry comes off the bench. His is really just a straight rest.
“But also, Reuben O’Neill was out of rugby for a long period of time with some concussion. He got his opportunity last week off the bench, he did some really good stuff.”
The injury-ravaged Highlanders have received welcome news that one of their most promising youngsters has begun his long road to recovery. https://t.co/8xih5yJFHw
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 4, 2021
Samisoni Taukei’aho takes over at hooker while the youthful pairing of Tupou Vaa’i and Josh Lord will combine in the second row for the fourth time this season, with Mitch Brown taking a break from starting and sliding onto the bench.
24-year-old Luke Jacobson will wear the captain’s armband for the first time in his Chiefs career – although the 2019 All Black has regularly taken over the mantle in the latter stage of various matches throughout the season.
While the Chiefs are likely out of the finals picture after the surprise loss last weekend, McMillan wants his men to tackle their match with the Rebels like they would any other game – and that means respecting their opposition and not throwing caution to the wind.
“We want to finish the season on a high and that, to me, only looks like two victories,” he said. “If we earn the right to be able to play some expansive Chiefs rugby then we’ll do that but we’ve found when we played the Force, as an example, if you start getting a bit too loose early, you don’t earn that right, sometimes you can get a bit sloppy. Errors start to creep in. You allow the opposition to stay in the game longer than what you anticipate and then it becomes a real dog fight. The old Aussies, they don’t mind getting up for a bit of a scrap.
“We just need to focus on getting our set-piece right, being disciplined, playing rugby at the right ends of the field and if we do those things then we know we’ve got enough class to win the games but to suggest that we’re just going to start to throw the ball around would be detrimental to our own performance and probably disrespectful to our opposition.”
While the match is technically a home game for the Chief, the Rebels’ inability to travel to New Zealand has forced the game’s shift to Australia. The game kicks off at 3pm AEST on Sunday from Leichardt Oval in Sydney.
Chiefs: Kaleb Trask, Shaun Stevenson, Anton Lienert-Brown, Quinn Tupaea, Bailyn Sullivan, Bryn Gatland, Xavier Roe, Luke Jacobson, Lachlan Boshier, Pita Gus Sowakula, Tupou Vaa’i, Josh Lord, Angus Ta’avao, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Reuben O’Neill. Reserves: Bradley Slater, Oliver Norris, Sione Mafileo, Mitch Brown, Zane Kapeli, Brad Weber, Alex Nankivell, Chase Tiatia.
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