Chiefs name stacked side for Crusaders clash
Eight All Blacks have been named in the Gallagher Chiefs match-day 23 to face rivals the Crusaders for the second time this season.
The home game clash at FMG Stadium Waikato on Saturday will be a much-awaited battle pitting the reigning champions against the top-of-the-table side who look to continue their winning streak.
Four All Blacks are named in the forwards pack with Aidan Ross returning to the front row alongside Samisoni Taukei'aho and George Dyer. The towering test-experienced locking duo of Brodie Retallick and Tupou Vaa'i will start with support from Naitoa Ah Kuoi off the bench.
Samipeni Finau commands his spot alongside Sam Cane and Luke Jacobson in the loose forwards. Brad Weber will start at halfback this week with the promising Cortez Ratima as support.
Damian McKenzie and Shaun Stevenson return to their roles at first-five and fullback respectively which sees Emoni Narawa and Etene Nanai-Seturo back on the wing.
Rameka Poihipi slots back into second-five while the emerging Daniel Rona earns another start at centre.
Tyrone Thompson, Ollie Norris and John Ryan will provide further force off the bench for the front row, as will Pita Gus Sowakula for the loose forwards. Bryn Gatland will support in first-five with Bay of Plenty and New Zealand U20’s winger Lalomilo Lalomilo set to make his DHL Super Rugby Pacific debut.
Culture Round is here! Unsure how to pronounce any names? We've got you covered! 🙌🏽💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/AYhgNS1mS9— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) April 26, 2023
Gallagher Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan said: "I am happy with the team we have selected where there’s a lot of consistency and reward for players who have been performing well.
"We could have pushed the envelope and re-introduced a couple of key players returning from injury, but ultimately decided to keep our powder dry, knowing the extra week of training won’t do those returning players any harm."
While McMillan is excited to play the Crusaders at home, he still remembers the outcome of last season's second meeting.
"They embarrassed us last year with their urgency and accuracy after we had beaten them in Christchurch a few weeks earlier, so we know what’s coming our way. There are areas that feed their game, particularly in big matches, and our challenge is to starve them of those opportunities whilst earning the right to play the expansive game we want to play," said McMillan.
"It should be a banger and we are hoping a massive crowd comes along to support the lads."
The Culture Round match will kick off at 7.05pm Saturday at FMG Stadium Waikato.
Gallagher Chiefs team to face the Crusaders (caps in brackets):
1 Aidan Ross – Bay of Plenty (67)
2 Samisoni Taukei'aho – Fahefa, ‘Ofu Vava’u (Tonga) (71)
3 George Dyer – Waikato (14)
4 Brodie Retallick – Hawkes Bay (122)
5 Tupou Vaa'i – Petani Eua (Tonga) (37)
6 Samipeni Finau - Fatumu (Tonga) (25)
7 Sam Cane – Bay of Plenty (143, Co-Captain)
8 Luke Jacobson – Waikato (55)
9 Brad Weber – Ngāti Porou (116, Co-Captain)
10 Damian McKenzie – Ngāti Tūwharetoa (103)
11 Etene Nanai-Seturo – Faleatai and Salelologa Savaii (Samoa) (36)
12 Rameka Poihipi – Te Arawa (22)
13 Daniel Rona – Te Āti Awa (5)
14 Emoni Narawa – Navulivatu, Serua (Fiji) (36)
15 Shaun Stevenson – Ngāpuhi, Solaua (Upolu) and Palauli (Savai’i) Samoa (75)
Reserves: 16 Tyrone Thompson – Ngāi Tāmanuhiri/Ngāti Rangiwewehi (9) 17 Ollie Norris – Ngāpuhi (36) 18 John Ryan – Ireland (8) 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi – Vaiusu Aleisa (Samoa) (40) 20 Pita Gus Sowakula – Nasolea/ Bucalevu, Cakaudrove (Fiji) (61) 21 Cortez Ratima – Ngāti Maniapoto (17) 22 Bryn Gatland – North Harbour (29) 23 Lalomilo Lalomilo – Falefa Sinamoga (debut)
Welcome to Culture Round 🙌— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) April 25, 2023
We are back to jampacked weekends with all teams playing 🤩
Which match are you most hype for? pic.twitter.com/ep8VqKsGBA