The outstanding Damian McKenzie will play his 100th game for the Gallagher Chiefs against the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday night.
McKenzie, 28 next month, made his debut for the Gallagher Chiefs in 2015, and has scored more than 800 points as well as earned 40 Test caps for the All Blacks. He becomes just the ninth player to achieve 100 games for the Gallagher Chiefs, and will be playing alongside three other centurions this week in Sam Cane, Brad Weber and Brodie Retallick.
He will play at fullback in Friday’s match at the Allianz Stadium, with Bryn Gatland retained at first-five, after he enjoyed a strong first outing for the season in the win over the Melbourne Rebels.
Gallagher Chiefs head coach, Clayton McMillan has praised McKenzie for his achievement.
“Damian returned from his time away in Japan and has slotted back into the Gallagher Chiefs seamlessly. He is an outstanding footballer who has an unbelievable skill-set, reads the game well, and is incredibly brave both sides of the ball.
“Off the field he is an excellent contributor, loved by staff, his peers and our loyal fanbase. We all congratulate him on becoming the latest Gallagher Chief to play 100 games, and sit alongside some of the legends of our game who have achieved this significant milestone.”
McMillan said he is looking for an improved performance from his side on Friday.
“Our performance last week had moments of brilliance mixed with a lot of poor decision-making and execution. We will need to be more clinical if we want to take the points against a dangerous and hurting Waratahs side.”
Several All Blacks return to the line-up led by co-captains Cane and Weber and lock Retallick with this trio sporting 372 caps between them for the Gallagher Chiefs.
The experienced Aidan Ross and Irish international John Ryan start again upfront with Bradley Slater getting his first start at hooker. Manaaki Selby-Rickit, who enjoyed an impressive debut last weekend, is set to partner Retallick in the middle.
All Blacks captain Cane returns to the openside to spell the hard-working Luke Jacobson, and is joined by Samipeni Finau and Pita Gus Sowakula, who was back to his barn-storming best last weekend.
The rest of the backs, who were at their exciting best at times against the Melbourne Rebels, return with Rameka Poihipi and Alex Nankivell in the midfield and the flying wingers Etene Nanai-Seturo and Emoni Narawa.
The game kicks off at the later time of 9.35pm (NZ Time) on Friday.
The team is (Chiefs caps in brackets):
1. Aidan Ross (64)
2. Bradley Slater (42)
3. John Ryan (4)
4. Brodie Retallick (118)
5. Manaaki Selby-Rickit (1)
6. Samipeni Finau (21)
7. Sam Cane (Co Captain, 140)
8. Pita Gus Sowakula (57)
9. Brad Weber (Co Captain, 113)
10. Bryn Gatland (49)
11. Etene Nanai-Seturo (32)
12. Rameka Poihipi (18)
13. Alex Nankivell (62)
14. Emoni Narawa (9)
15. Damian McKenzie (99)
16. Samisoni Taukei’aho (67)
17. Ollie Norris (32)
18. George Dyer (11)
19. Naitoa Ah Kuoi (37)
20. Kaylum Boshier (14)
21. Cortez Ratima (13)
22. Daniel Rona (1)
23. Shaun Stevenson (71)
Players not considered because of injury: Angus Ta’avao (season), Atu Moli, Josh Lord, Quinn Tupaea, Anton Lienert-Brown, Tupou Vaa’i, Laghlan McWhannell