That was the verdict from head coach Colin Cooper today, who told TVNZ that his three test stars are being forced out of contention due to the management of the All Blacks’ game time in the opening three rounds of Super Rugby as the World Cup looms.
Despite this, Chiefs co-captain and All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick will be available for selection, albeit for only 33 minutes of the contest.
“Nathan Harris, Anton Lienert-Brown, Nepo Laulala are all having All Black rests,” Cooper said.
“It would have been better to play more minutes in this game in front of his home crowd, but we’re on limited minutes because of the All Blacks.”
With the World Cup just over six months away, players apart of the national set-up are being restricted to just 180 minutes of action in the opening three rounds of Super Rugby as part of a broad plan to avoid player burnout as the season progresses.
Other protocols being put in place to protect New Zealand’s top players in Super Rugby includes not playing them for more than five consecutive games and giving them two games off, excluding the two byes.
In the first two matches of the season, Lienert-Brown has clocked up 141 minutes of action, while Harris and Laulala have played 107 and 100 minutes, respectively.
The Chiefs will have to attempt to secure their first win of the season without their test stars, after falling to the Highlanders and Brumbies in their opening two clashes of the year.
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