All Black Sam Cane has been named in the Chiefs team to play the Blues at Eden Park on Saturday after recovering from a broken neck.
Chiefs co-captain Cane’s return to the playing field will be a welcome boost for the All Blacks as he has enough time to regain full fitness for the world cup.
Named on the bench in jersey number 20, Cane will take the field for the first time this Super Rugby season. Brad Weber will continue to captain the side from halfback.
Angus Ta’avao will start at tighthead in his 100th Super Rugby match, shifting Nepo Laulala to the bench.
A new locking combination of Jesse Parete and Mitchell Brown will take the field, with Tyler Ardron back to number eight. Pita Gus Sowakula will start at six in place of Luke Jacobson who sustained a head knock at training.
Again Cooper has named an unchanged backline from the side that took the field against the Sharks in Hamilton.
Joining Cane on the reserves bench, loosehead prop Aidan Ross returns from his neck injury and Waikato loose forward Mitchell Jacobson will be hoping to make his Super Rugby debut for the Gallagher Chiefs in jersey number 19.
Head coach Colin Cooper said: “It is always a great rivalry between us and the Blues. We expect another brutal encounter again this weekend. They have some great attacking ability among their team. We will need to continue to build on our performance against the Sharks.”
Brodie Retallick, Damian McKenzie, Fin Hoeata, Jack Debreczeni, Kane Hames, Lachlan Boshier, Laghlan McWhannell, Luke Jacobson, Michael Allardice, Reuben O’Neill, Sam McNicol, Taleni Seu and Tiaan Falcon were all unavailable for selection.
15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (captain), 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Pita Gus Sowakula, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Jesse Parete, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Atu Moli
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Mitchell Jacobson, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Shaun Stevenson, 23 Alex Nankivell