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Chiefs surprise for Highlanders clash

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Chiefs spring surprise ahead of Highlanders clash

The Chiefs have been named ahead of their Super Rugby derby opener against the Highlanders at FMG Stadium Waikato on Friday.

Four promising youngsters will make their Chiefs debuts, with the biggest surprise coming at first-five-eighth.

21-year-old Orbyn Leger has been named in the number 10 jersey, as All Blacks pivot Damian McKenzie is rested by head coach Colin Cooper due to an ankle complaint.

Leger, who made seven appearances for the Blues as an injury cover replacement last season, was left out of the Chiefs’ initial squad when it was announced at the end of last year.

However, the former New Zealand under-20 midfielder has been training with the Hamilton-based franchise throughout pre-season, and has done enough to earn a starting spot in the unfamiliar position of first-five following injuries to Tiaan Falcon, Jack Debreczeni and McKenzie.

There are three other debutants throughout the side, with former schoolboy prodigy Etene Nanai-Seturo named on the left wing.

He’s joined by former Blues midfielder Tumua Manu, who starts at centre, and Tongan-born Japan international winger Ataata Moeakiola, who will make his first outing in Chiefs colours from off the bench.

“It will be a proud moment for our debutants when they run out with the team on Friday,” coach Cooper said.

“It is a privilege to wear the Gallagher Chiefs jersey and as a team we want to demonstrate to our whanau and supporters how proud we are to represent our region and club.”

Despite this influx of fresh talent, Cooper has also named a raft of familiar faces, with All Blacks Nathan Harris, Anton Leinert-Brown, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Angus Ta’avao and new co-captain Brodie Retallick all returning to the side after sitting out the team’s pre-season fixtures.

Club legend Stephen Donald also completes his comeback to the side as an injury replacement to help aide their first-five injury woes, being named on the bench to begin his third stint with the franchise.

Chiefs team to play the Highlanders in Hamilton on Friday:

1. Atu Moli
2. Nathan Harris
3. Angus Ta’avao
4. Brodie Retallick (c)
5. Michael Allardice
6. Mitchell Brown
7. Lachlan Boshier
8. Tyler Ardron
9. Brad Weber
10. Orbyn Leger
11. Etene Nanai-Seturo
12. Anton Lienert-Brown
13. Tumua Manu
14. Bailyn Sullivan
15. Shaun Stevenson

Reserves:

16. Samisoni Taukei’aho
17. Aidan Ross
18. Nepo Laulala
19. Taleni Seu
20. Jesse Parete
21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
22. Stephen Donald
23. Ataata Moeakiola

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Chiefs spring surprise ahead of Highlanders clash