Follow all the action on the RugbyPass live blog from the Super Rugby Aotearoa clash between the Chiefs and Highlanders at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton.
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Chiefs head coach Warren Gatland has made a raft of changes to his twenty-three for his side’s clash against the Highlanders on Sunday.
In the forwards, Aidan Ross, Bradley Slater and Nepo Laulala pack down a formidable front row.
With lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi side-lined with concussion, Tupou Vaa’i shifts into the starting XV combining with Mitchell Brown.
The impressive loose forward combination of Lachlan Boshier and Chiefs captain Sam Cane remains the status quo alongside Pita Gus Sowakula completing the forward pack at No. 8.
A reshuffled backline will see halfback Brad Weber combine with first-five eighth Kaleb Trask, with an experienced halves combination in Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi and Aaron Cruden named on the bench.
Alex Nankivell earns his first start of the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition at second five-eighth. He will be joined by Anton Lienert-Brown in the midfield, who returns from concussion.
An electrifying back three consists of Solomon Alaimalo on the left wing, Sean Wainui on the right wing and Damian McKenzie slotting into fullback.
In the reserves, an abundance of experience is featured. Samisoni Taukei’aho, Reuben O’Neill and Ross Geldenhuys round off a powerful replacement front row.
Experienced Adam Thomson and Mitchell Karpik provide loose forward cover. Rookie Quinn Tupaea completes the line-up in jersey twenty-three.
Meanwhile, Josh Ioane returns to the Highlanders’ match day 23 in what is a largely unchanged team from last Sunday’s close loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Ioane, who withdrew before the round one match against the Chiefs with a re-aggravated groin strain the injury, will get his first taste of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
“It’s been tough to be on the sidelines watching as there has been some great games going on and I’m excited to get the opportunity to get back out there,” said Ioane.
There are no changes in the forward pack with Dillon Hunt, who left the field last week after sustaining a finger in the eye, being declared fit to play.
Jona Nareki, who has started every match so far for the Highlanders, will be given a chance to make an impact off the bench this week. Scott Gregory will move from the right-wing to the left wing, making way for Josh McKay to make his competition debut.
In the reserves, Folau Fakatava and Ethan de Groot will be included in the playing team for the first time after Kayne Hammington broke his hand in the final moments of the Hurricanes match and Daniel Lienert-Brown is unavailable due to dental surgery this week.
Should Ethan de Groot take the field, this will be his Super Rugby debut.
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