Chiefs spring selection surprise for Super Rugby opener
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper named his team for their Super Rugby derby opener against the Highlanders in Hamilton on Friday.
Four promising youngsters will make their Chiefs debuts, with the biggest surprise coming at flyhalf.
Orbyn Leger, 21, has been named in the No.10 jersey, as All Blacks pivot Damian McKenzie is rested by Cooper due to an ankle complaint.
Leger, who made seven appearances for the Blues as an injury cover replacement last season, was left out of the Chiefs’ initial squad when it was announced at the end of last year.
However, the former New Zealand Under-20 midfielder has been training with the Hamilton-based franchise throughout pre-season and has done enough to earn a starting spot in the unfamiliar position of flyhalf following injuries to Tiaan Falcon, Jack Debreczeni and McKenzie.
There are three other debutants throughout the side, with former schoolboy prodigy Etene Nanai-Seturo named on the left wing.
He’s joined by former Blues midfielder Tumua Manu, who starts at centre, and Tongan-born Japan international wing Ataata Moeakiola, who will make his first outing in Chiefs colours from off the bench.
“It will be a proud moment for our debutants when they run out with the team on Friday,” coach Cooper said.
“It is a privilege to wear the Gallagher Chiefs jersey and as a team we want to demonstrate to our whanau and supporters how proud we are to represent our region and club.”
Despite this influx of fresh talent, Cooper has also named a raft of familiar faces, with All Blacks Nathan Harris, Anton Leinert-Brown, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Angus Ta’avao and new co-captain Brodie Retallick all returning to the side after sitting out the team’s pre-season fixtures.
Team legend Stephen Donald also completes his comeback to the side as an injury replacement to help aide their flyhalf injury woes, being named on the bench to begin his third stint with the franchise.
Chiefs: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Bailyn Sullivan, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Orbyn Leger, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Tyler Ardon, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Brodie Retallick (captain), 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Atu Moli.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Telani Seu, 20 Jesse Parete, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Stephen Donald, 23 Ataata Moeakiola.
Date: Friday, February 15
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.35 (06.35 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Federico Anselmi, Nick Briant
TMO: Aaron Paterson
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