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Star players return for Chiefs’ quarter-final with Reds

By Finn Morton
Damian McKenzie. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Coming into this year’s Super Rugby Pacific playoffs, most rugby fans would agree that the Hamilton-based Chiefs are the favourites for championship glory.

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The Chiefs were sensational throughout the regular season, and almost went undefeated. But they fell to the Queensland Reds in a thriller last month.

While the sole defeat is a minor blip on an otherwise sensational campaign, the Chiefs will look to avenge that defeat in this weekend’s quarter-final.

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The minor premiers will host their trans-Tasman rivals in a quasi-rematch of sorts – although more accurately, it’s a straight shootout for a chance to progress to the final four.

Following their big win over the Western Force in Perth – which saw the Chiefs rest a number of frontline stars – coach Clayton McMillan has named a familiar looking line-up this week.

Aidan Ross, Samisoni Taukai’aho and John Ryan will pack down in the front row, while All Blacks Brodie Retallick and Josh Lord will combine at lock.

Exciting blindside Samipeni Finau will start on one flank, and co-captain Sam Cane the other. In-form backrower Luke Jacobson will pack down at the back of the scrum.

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Halfback Brad Weber will link up with Damian McKenzie in the halves, while Shaun Stevenson will look to inject himself into attacking phases from fullback.

Rameka Poihipi moves from flyhalf to inside centre, and will run out alongside Anton Lienert-Brown in the midfield.

The two wingers this week are the electrifying duo of Etene Nanai-Seturo and Emoni Narawa.

“We look forward to hosting the Reds and playing in front of our passionate supporters in what should be a cracking game at FMG Stadium Waikato,” coach Clayton McMillan said in a statement.

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“They were deserved winners in our last encounter where their tactical kicking game, ability to build high phase counts and greater desperation proved to be the difference.

“Notwithstanding the challenge the Reds bring, we have focused on ourselves this week and named a largely settled side.

“Having returned from Perth and navigating a shorter training week, we have removed a lot of clutter, understanding our players are at their best when they are clear on their roles and can play with freedom.”

Alex Nankivell and Tupou Vaa’i have both been ruled out of this blockbuster quarter-final due to injuries.

The match is set to get underway at 4.35pm NZST at Hamilton’s FMG Stadium on Saturday.

Chiefs team to take on Reds

  1. Aidan Ross
  2. Samisoni Taukai’aho
  3. John Ryan
  4. Brodie Retallick
  5. Josh Lord
  6. Samipeni Finau
  7. Sam Cane (cc)
  8. Luke Jacobson
  9. Brad Weber (cc)
  10. Damian McKenzie
  11. Etene Nanai-Seturo
  12. Rameka Poihipi
  13. Anton Lienert-Brown
  14. Emoni Narawa
  15. Shaun Stevenson

Replacements:

  1. Bradley Slater
  2. Ollie Norris
  3. George Dyer
  4. Naitoa Ah Kuoi
  5. Pita Gus Sowakula
  6. Cortez Ratima
  7. Josh Ioane
  8. Daniel Rona

Players unavailable due to injury: Angus Ta’avao, Quinn Tupaea, Xavier Roe, Bryn Gatland, Laghlan McWhannell, Lalomilo Lalomilo, Alex Nankivell, Tupou Vaa’i

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