Cron won't take bait as Chiefs remove All Blacks
With nothing but winning form to gain from their final-round clash with the Force, the Chiefs have decided to rest a glut of their All Blacks stars.
Only four players who featured in the starting line-up against the Brumbies will again be in the XV – lock Laghlan McWhannell, playmaker Rameka Poihipi, and wingers Etene Nanai-Seturo and Alex Nankivell.
Missing from last week’s XV are props Aidan Ross and George Dyer, hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho, lock Brodie Retallick, co-captain Sam Cane, No.8 Luke Jacobson, halfback Brad Weber, playmaker Josh Ioane, winger Emoni Narawa and fullback Damian McKenzie.
None of those listed have even been named on the bench.
Pita Gus Sowakula, who started at lock last week, will start on the pine.
It means a total of nine All Blacks who featured in last week’s starting side won’t be in the XV in Perth.
But such is the depth of the Chiefs’ squad, the second-string side they’re putting out against the Force will still be tough to beat.
“If you look at the players the Chiefs have got on the park, it’s pretty impressive still,” Cron told reporters on Thursday.
“They’ve got nine guys over 40 caps, they’ve got All Blacks, you’ve got guys who have probably been some of the most dominant players in Super Rugby still out there.
“We’re not taking them lightly by any stretch of the imagination. You’d be a fool if you did.”
The Force will unleash one of their strongest squads of the year, bolstered by the full return of Wallabies lock Izack Rodda.
Rodda returned from a foot injury via a 35-minute cameo off t he bench in last week’s 52-14 loss to the Melbourne Rebels.
That result dropped the Force to ninth, making Saturday night’s clash a must-win affair.
Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan said resting a glut of his frontline players was a “purely strategic decision”.
“We have played some incredibly physical games over the last few weeks, and this along with the travel to and from Perth and a short turn-around to the quarter-final, resting them became a bit of a no-brainer,” McMillan said.
“Most of the players we are resting have helped us prepare in Perth and will head home in advance of the weekend’s game to spend time with family and recharge the batteries.
“For those that have remained – our expectations as a collective and as individuals are clear. Points won’t change anything for us but pride in our performance will.”
WESTERN FORCE: Angus Wagner, Folau Fainga’a, Santiago Medrano, Jeremy Williams, Izack Rodda, Michael Wells (capt), Carlo Tizzano, Rahboni Vosayaco, Gareth Simpson, Max Burey, Manasa Mataele, Hamish Stewart, Sam Spink, Zach Kibirige, Chase Tiatia. Reserves: Marley Pearce, Tom Horton, Siosifa Amone, Felix Kalapu, Tim Anstee, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, George Poolman, Toni Pulu.
CHIEFS: Ollie Norris, Tyrone Thompson, John Ryan, Laghlan McWhannell, Tupou Vaa’i, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Simon Parker, Samipeni Finau, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Rameka Poihipi, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Anton Lienert-Brown (capt), Alex Nankivell, Liam Coombes-Fabling, Shaun Stevenson. Reserves: Bradley Slater, Jared Proffit, Atunaisa Moli, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Pita Gus Sowakula, Cortez Ratima, Rivez Reihana, Lalomilo Lalomilo.
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