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All Blacks return bolsters Chiefs ahead of Rebels Showdown

All Blacks return bolsters Chiefs ahead of Rebels Showdown

All BlacksMay 16, 2024

Wary of the Rebels' success in DHL Super Rugby Pacific this season, the Chiefs are expecting a tough contest in Melbourne on Friday.

They have been strengthened by the return of All Blacks Damian McKenzie at first five-eighths, Shaun Stevenson at fullback and Emoni Narawa on the wing.

McKenzie and Stevenson had injuries, while Narawa had his All Blacks rest week.

Assistant coach Roger Randle said, "Emoni had been going really for us and having that week off just helps freshen him up and gives guys in the squad champing at the bit a chance.

"So, we've got our back three who have held us in good stead and having a bit of cohesion helps.

"With our back three last year, and even the start of this year, getting those times together, once they are clicking, especially on the counter attack, and with some of our attack, it's a point of difference for us."

Randle said the Rebels are a talented team that has scored many tries and has a good defensive lineout.

Stevenson said his hamstring was feeling good.

"It's good to get back; nothing beats playing the game you love. You miss it when you're out for a couple of weeks.

"I'm looking forward to getting AMII Park and ripping into it with the boys."

He said the Chiefs had been playing well over the last few weeks, and while he wanted to be out there, they always talked about the next man up when injuries occur.

"Etene's [Nanai-Seturo] been playing well and the boys who came in Liam Coombes-Fabling and Daniel Rona played well also, so, now we're pretty tight in the backline and you always want your brothers to go well. It's good healthy competition for everyone that's trying to get those positions into the business end."

Stevenson wasn't distracted by a potential All Blacks selection, especially in Will Jordan's early-season absence. He said he wanted to do his best for the Chiefs in his position and play 80 minutes as often as possible.

While he played well last year to push for an All Blacks spot, 2024 is a different year.

"I've got to keep grinding. Other players are playing well but to be honest I'm focusing on my health and staying on the field and doing my job for this team."

He said extending his contract with the Chiefs reflected his feelings about the side. There was also the prospect of winning a Super Rugby title and completing the 100-game milestone.

However, the immediate task is coping with the Rebels, and he said that the way the first five-eighths Carter Gordon had been pulling the strings for them, the Chiefs' backs would need to communicate well to deal with their approach.

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