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Chiefs bring in All Blacks and Under 20s talent to bulk up settled squad

By Tom Vinicombe
Gideon Wrampling and Brodie Retallick. (Photos by Getty Images)

The loss of Damian McKenzie isn’t an easy one to compensate for, but the return of Brodie Retallick and the arrival of Josh Ioane from the Highlanders means the Chiefs will still boast plenty of star power in the inaugural season of Super Rugby Pacific.


Clayton McMillan’s 38-man squad announced for 2022 is a settled one that includes 12 All Blacks and just two players without experience at Super Rugby level: Wellington hooker Tyrone Thompson and Waikato halfback Cortez Ratima.

Thompson burst onto the scene for the Lions during last year’s provincial season, scoring an audacious 50-metre try from the front of a lineout. The 21-year-old rake was selected in the 2020 training squad for the New Zealand Under 20s side and will take the place of former All Black Nathan Harris in the squad, who has retired from the game.

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How Ian Foster reacted to the All Blacks’ loss to France.

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How Ian Foster reacted to the All Blacks’ loss to France.

Ratima, meanwhile, is fresh off an NPC title with Waikato and stepped into the No 9 jersey once Chiefs teammate Xavier Roe went down with injury during the season. Despite spending the first half of the year recovering from shoulder surgery and missing the Super Rugby Under 20s tournament in April, Ratima was still selected in this year’s Baby Blacks squad, emphasising the potential of the 20-year-old halfback.

Two players who were short-term replacements for the side last year, loose forward Samipeni Finau and outside back Gideon Wrampling, have also earned full-time contracts for 2022. Finau and Wrampling featured at blindside flanker and inside centre for Waikato in their Premiership win over Tasman on Saturday evening and have both previously been selected in NZ U20s squads.

Otherwise, the arrival of the in-form Ioane and return of Retallick were both announced earlier in the year.

McMillan acknowledged earlier in the season that despite the departure of McKenzie, the Chiefs weren’t on the look-out for a replacement 10, given the presence of Bryan Gatland, Kaleb Trask and Rivez Reihana in the squad – but the opportunity to sign a player of Ioane’s calibre was too good to turn down.


As such, the 24-year-old utility back will look to reignite his All Blacks career in 2022 with the Chiefs, though will face stiff opposition for a starting spot.

Retallick, meanwhile, adds to some already impressive depth in the second row that’s been fostered out of necessity with the club losing so many locks to injury over the past two seasons. Tupou Vaa’i and Naitoa Ah Kuoi have already stepped up in Retallick’s absence while Josh Lord’s elevation to the All Blacks this season means McMillan may actually struggle to find spots in his match-day squad for the team’s second-row riches.

The forward pack as a whole should be an area of strength for the Chiefs in 2022, with Lord, Samisoni Taukei’aho and Aidan Ross all earning All Blacks call-ups this year (although Ross’ may have only be temporary), to join the likes of Angus Ta’avao, Atunaisa Moli, Retallick, Vaa’i, Cane and Jacobson as test players in the pack.

Provided that Moli can stay injury-free, the 26-year-old will be looking to fight his way back into contention for a black jersey in 2022 and his continued signing reinforces how highly he’s viewed within the Chiefs camp.


Questions remain over the potency of the side’s outside backs, given their at times lack of incision this season. However, with Emoni Narawa signed from the Blues and Wrampling more than capable of filling in on the wing, the cohort has certainly been strengthened for next season.

“The thing that sort of sticks out for me is that we’ve got a lot of consistency around the squad that we’ve selected,” McMillan said. “A large percentage of last year’s squad have been retained and it’s been a really easy decision to make based on the progress that we’ve made.

“I feel like keeping this really young, exciting group together will reap reward for us in the near future but we also welcome some exciting new talent to the team who’ll be playing in Super Rugby for the first time.”

McMillan also paid tribute to the late Sean Wainui, who was set to be named in the Chiefs for the fifth consecutive season.

“Sean was such an integral member of the Chiefs team and whanau and it’s going to be really hard for the team that he’s not going to be here physically,” he said, “but we know his presence will always be here and the example that he set as a person, as a trainer and as a legendary Chief will live long beyond my days here at the Chiefs and we’ll be doing everything that we can to honour his legacy.

2022 Chiefs squad:

Hookers: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Bradley Slater, Tyrone Thompson

Props: Aidan Ross, Reuben O’Neill, Ollie Norris, Angus Ta’avao, Atunaisa Moli, Sione Mafileo

Locks: Brodie Retallick, Tupou Vaa’i, Josh Lord, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Laghlan McWhannell

Loose forward: Sam Cane, Luke Jacobson, Pita Gus Sowakula, Mitchell Brown, Kaylum Boshier, Simon Parker, Samipeni Finau

Halfbacks: Brad Weber, Xavier Roe, Cortez Ratima

First-fives: Bryn Gatland, Josh Ioane, Kaleb Trask, Rivez Reihana

Midfield: Quinn Tupaea, Anton Lienert-Brown, Alex Nankivell, Rameka Poihipi, Gideon Wrampling

Outside backs: Shaun Stevenson, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Jonah Lowe, Chase Tiatia, Emoni Narawa

2022 Chiefs Transfers:

In: Ioane (Highlanders), Retallick (Japan), Narawa (Blues), Thompson (Wellington), Finau (Waikato), Ratima (Waikato), Wrampling (Waikato)

Out: Joe Apikotoa, Ezekiel Lindenmuth (both Moana Pasifika), Nathan Harris (retired), Lachlan Boshier (Japan), Tom Florence, Zane Kapeli, Liam Messam, Viliami Taulani (England), Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Crusaders), Bailyn Sullivan (Hurricanes), Sean Wainui (deceased), Damian McKenzie (Chiefs)


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