Chiefs relishing competition opener against the Crusaders
Stepping out in New Zealand rugby's most formidable domestic challenge, playing the DHL Super Rugby Pacific champions, the Crusaders, in Friday's opening game of the season, the Chiefs are relishing the contest in Christchurch.
Coach Clayton McMillan said while more time would be helpful, all teams were in the same position, and he was happy with how they had prepared for the campaign.
"We've done as much as we possibly can, and we'll go down and give the Crusaders a good shake.
"It's a great way to start the competition. They're the champs and they've set the standard for a long time now. If you want to find out where your game is at that's the place to go and do it so, it will be a massive challenge but one the boys are excited about and looking forward to."
There was a balance about the side while the return of Damian McKenzie from Japan and mid-field back Anton Lienert-Brown from injury was another bonus for the side.
They had been building their side over the last few years, and the challenge was to keep their good players out on the field for the season.
McKenzie starts at first five-eighths, and McMillan said that was on the back of 40 minutes he produced in pre-season play against the Blues.
"We know he is capable of playing 10 [first five-eighths] and 15 [fullback] well. This week he gets the opportunity on the back of a pretty impressive 40 minutes against the Blues last week.
"He challenged the line and created opportunities for other people and I've had some success against the Crusaders with him at 10 so he gets the nod which is unfortunate for a couple of other 10s who have all done well in the pre-season and we see the first few weeks as a chance to give them all a legitimate opportunity to force their way into the 23 to solidify who is a regular starter in the 10 jersey."
McMillan feels the law variations introduced are exciting and will bring the fatigue factor into games. The referees will take quite a hard stance on those new rules early, which is positive because everyone will adapt quickly and start figuring out how they could be bent.
"I like the halfback not being able to come past the mid-line at scrums, and that will create some attacking opportunities off scrums.
"Everyone will bring something different. We're all trying to shift our game forward."
The Chiefs take on the Crusaders on Friday 24 February at 7.05pm in the opening game of DHL Super Rugby Pacific in Christchurch. Watch live on Sky Sport NZ.
First 23 of '23. Round one we are ON in Christchurch 💥— Gallagher Chiefs (@ChiefsRugby) February 22, 2023
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