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McKenzie returns for Chiefs as McMillan names 2023 squad

By Ned Lester
Damian McKenzie celebrates kicking the game-winning penalty for the Chiefs. Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

The Gallagher Chiefs squad assembling for the 2023 DHL Super Rugby Pacific competition may be one of the most established yet. Of the 38 players named; 15 have run out in the black jersey, seven are named in the current All Blacks squad, and five in the All Blacks XV.

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Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan says he is really excited about the 2023 Gallagher Chiefs.

“There is a lot of consistency in our selection with only four new recruits, and the return of fan favourite Damian McKenzie, as additions to the squad. This is reflected in our belief that we are trending in the right direction. Our relatively young squad is maturing nicely and we have developed genuine cohesion and depth across the squad. We look forward to getting into our work over the summer and hitting the ground running in front of our loyal fans next year.”

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Of the new additions to the Gallagher Chiefs in 2023, two are transfers from the Highlanders who bring with them many seasons of Super Rugby experience.

24-year-old Ngantungane Punivai has four Super Rugby seasons already under his belt, two with the Crusaders before his time with the Highlanders. His versatility across wing and centre positions is advantageous and he has put in quality performances this season with Bunnings Warehouse NPC runner-up, Canterbury.

Bay of Plenty Lock Manaaki Selby-Rickit also transfers from the Highlanders adding further height, standing at 2.03m, and depth to the squad.

Counties Manukau rookie Peniasi Malimali will make his DHL Super Rugby Pacific debut for the Gallagher Chiefs in the new year, with his explosive speed, the 25-year-old Fijian will be an asset on the wing.

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Taranaki prop, Jared Proffit, secures his first full-time Super Rugby Pacific contact in 2023 off the back of his debut for the Hurricanes during the 2022 season. Recently, Proffit was awarded Yarrows Taranaki Bulls Forward of the Year for his efforts during the Bunnings Warehouse NPC season.

In addition to the new recruits, Damian McKenzie returns to the Gallagher Chiefs after his season stint with the Tokyo Sungoliath. The All Black will reunite with Bryn Gatland and Rivez Reihana to form a very talented first-five trio for the season.

Gallagher Chiefs Director of Rugby Warren Gatland said the Chiefs Rugby Club is extremely excited about the squad they have assembled for DHL Super Rugby Pacific 2023.

“Over the last three seasons some young, talented players have developed exceptionally well. There is a nice balance between the youth we have in the squad and experienced internationals. There have not been many changes in the squad, and we believe we will benefit from that continuity. After making the semi-finals in 2022, we hope that we would have learnt from that experience and can push to be in the mix again next year.”

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2023 Gallagher Chiefs squad:

Naitoa Ah Kuoi (Bay of Plenty, 33)
Kaylum Boshier (Taranaki, 13)
Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty, 136)
George Dyer (Waikato, 7)
Samipeni Finau (Waikato, 17)
Bryn Gatland (North Harbour, 23)
Josh Ioane (Otago, 8)
Luke Jacobson (Waikato, 48)
Anton Lienert-Brown (Waikato, 98)
Josh Lord (Taranaki, 15)
Peniasi Malimali (Counties Manukau, 0)*
Damian McKenzie (Waikato, 95)
Laghlan McWhannell (Waikato, 3)
Atunaisa Moli (Tasman, 53)
Etene Nanai-Seturo (Counties Manukau, 28)
Alex Nankivell (Tasman, 57)
Emoni Narawa (Bay of Plenty, 9)
Ollie Norris (Waikato, 27)
Simon Parker (Waikato, 3)
Rameka Poihipi (Canterbury, 13)
Jared Proffit (Taranaki, 0)*
Ngantungane Punivai (Canterbury, 0)*
Cortez-Lee Ratima (Waikato, 9)
Rivez Reihana (Northland, 8)
Brodie Retallick (Hawkes Bay, 114)
Xavier Roe (Waikato, 16)
Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty, 60)
Manaaki Selby-Rickit (Bay of Plenty, 0)*
Bradley Slater (Taranaki, 38)
Pita Gus Sowakula (Taranaki, 52)
Shaun Stevenson (North Harbour, 67)
Angus Ta’avao (Auckland, 61)
Samisoni Taukei’aho (Waikato, 62)
Tyrone Thompson (Hawkes Bay, 5)
Quinn Tupaea (Waikato, 33)
Tupou Vaa’i (Taranaki, 30)
Brad Weber (Hawkes Bay, 109)
Gideon Wrampling (Waikato, 1)

Brackets denote players’ provincial union and Gallagher Chiefs caps.
* denotes a player that is yet to debut for the Gallagher Chiefs
Bolded players denote a rookie, those who have signed their first full-time DHL Super Rugby Pacific contract.

The 2023 Gallagher Chiefs squad will commence their pre-season training at the start of January.

Press Release/Chiefs Rugby

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