Liam Messam returns as the Chiefs make 20 changes for their final round robin match

Liam Messam returns as the Chiefs make 20 changes for their final round robin match

Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan has named his  team to face the Blues at Eden Park on Saturday 1 May with 20 changes to the matchday 23 from last week.

The youthful twenty-three includes six debutants, providing players with the opportunity to put their hand up to stake their claim for selection in the coming weeks.

Propping duo of Ollie Norris and Sione Mafileo are promoted from the bench to start alongside hooker Bradley Slater who re-joins the twenty-three. Locking duo of Samipeni Finau and Josh Lord will start in jersey’s four and five. Counties Manukau loose froward Viliami Taulani and Tongan International Zane Kapeli will don jersey six and seven respectively for their Super Rugby debuts. Powerful Pita Gus Sowakula remains unchanged, starting at number eight.

In the backs, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi shifts to start combining with first five-eighth Bryn Gatland. Rameka Poihipi is promoted to start at second five-eighth with Alex Nankivell side-lined by injury. Poihipi combines with Sean Wainui who will captain the side for the first time. Shaun Stevenson and Bailyn Sullivan will excite fans on the wings, while playmaker Kaleb Trask will start in the number fifteen jersey.

In the reserves, hooker Nathan Harris will be joined by hopeful debutant Ezekiel Lindenmuth and tight head prop Joe Apikotoa as front row replacements. Experienced campaigner Liam Messam returns for his 180th cap in the Chiefs jersey after being called into the squad earlier this week. Messam will line up beside Taranaki debutant Tom Florence as loose forward cover. Halfback Xavier Roe returns for his second cap, with exciting utility cover in Rivez Reihana and University of Waikato Chiefs Under 20 captain Gideon Wrampling to complete the twenty-three. Reihana and Wrampling will also be hoping to make their Super Rugby debuts.

“This game on the weekend gives those players who have been selected a significant opportunity to demonstrate that they are good enough to play in the final next week, but also put their hand up for regular selection during the Trans-Tasman competition. We are really happy for these guys and excited to see what they will bring on Saturday.” - Clayton McMillan 

1. Ollie Norris (10)
2. Bradley Slater (20)
3. Sione Mafileo (4)
4. Samipeni Finau (5)
5. Josh Lord (1)
6. Viliami Taulani**
7. Zane Kapeli**
8. Pita Gus Sowakula (32)
9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (44)
10. Bryn Gatland (4)
11. Shaun Stevenson (37)
12. Rameka Poihipi (1)
13. Sean Wainui © (42)
14. Bailyn Sullivan (4)
15. Kaleb Trask (12)

16. Nathan Harris (60)
17. Ezekiel Lindenmuth**
18. Joe Apikotoa (3)
19. Liam Messam (179)
20. Tom Florence**
21. Xavier Roe (1)
22. Rivez Reihana**
23. Gideon Wrampling**

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets
*denotes Gallagher Chiefs debut
**denotes Sky Super Rugby debut

Unavailable for selection:
Atu Moli (hips), Alex Nankivell (finger), Chase Tiatia (concussion), Kaylum Boshier (shoulder), Laghlan McWhannell (knee), Luke Jacobson (concussion), Mitchell Karpik (knee), Naitoa Ah Kuoi (concussion), Reuben O’Neill (concussion), Sam Cane (shoulder/pectoral), Simon Parker (foot), Quinn Tupaea (knee).

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