Gatland tweaks struggling Chiefs team for Blues clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Chiefs will head up State Highway One to challenge the Blues at Eden Park on Sunday in Round Seven of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Chiefs head coach Warren Gatland has made only three changes to his twenty-three for the derby clash.
Loosehead prop Reuben O’Neill joins the starting front row in place of starting loosehead prop Aidan Ross who has been sidelined with a calf strain following last weekend’s clash against the Highlanders. The Chiefs elusive backline remains unchanged.
In the reserves, young prop Ollie Norris joins the twenty-three alongside Taranaki halfback Lisati Milo-Harris.
Loose forward and journeyman Adam Thomson will don jersey No.19 for his 100th Super Rugby appearance.
The 38-year-old loose forward began his Super Rugby career in 2006 when he debuted for the Highlanders.
Following his 67th Super Rugby cap for the Highlanders, Thomson headed offshore to Japan on a two-year contract with the Cannon Eagles. Thomson returned to Super Rugby in 2015 for the Queensland Reds. Following 15 appearances for the team he moved south to Melbourne in 2016, where he notched up 13 caps for the Melbourne Rebels.
In 2017 Thomson returned to Japan to once again play for the Cannon Eagles, however, was bedridden in Tokyo after suffering from lumbar discitis, a painful infection of the spine. Thomson made his comeback last year in the Major League with the Utah Warriors before returning home to play for his old province Otago.
The All Black was called into the Chiefs earlier this year as an injury replacement player. Thomson has now become an instrumental member of the team, known for his experience, work rate and versatility.
Gatland said the side have once again prepared well for the derby.
“Last weekend we had the opportunity to finish the job off, but as we have seen in this competition you need to deliver an 80-minute performance, or longer in some instances and we didn’t do that.
“This week we are looking for that consistency, starting strong once again and then continuing to stay in the game and maintain our focus on what we can control.”
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Kaleb Trask, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Tupou Vaa’i, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Bradley Slater, 1 Reuben O’Neill.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Lisati Milo-Harris, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Quinn Tupaea.
Date: Sunday, July 26
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 15.35 (03.35 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Paul Williams
TMO: Mike Fraser