Chiefs Super rugby head coach Warren Gatland has named his team to play the Blues in their season-opening match at the earlier kick-off time of 7.05pm at Eden Park.
The selected twenty-three will see three debutants in Waikato centre Quinn Tupaea and Bay of Plenty first five-eighth Kaleb Trask, named in the starting fifteen and Wellington lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi hoping to debut off the bench.
The front row will feature loosehead prop Aidan Ross pack down alongside tighthead All Black prop Nepo Laulala and hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho.
Tyler Ardron and Mitchell Brown will be the starting locking duo with debutant Ah Kuoi covering on the bench. In the loose forwards Lachlan Boshier and Mitchell Karpik will be at six and seven respectively, with Chiefs Captain Sam Cane packing down the scrum at number eight.
In the backs, halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi will combine with 21-year-old Trask at ten.
In the midfield Alex Nankivell will don the number 12 jersey, with Tupaea named at centre. A familiar back three will start with Solomon Alaimalo on the left-wing and Sean Wainui on the right and crafty full back Damian McKenzie to complete an exciting backline.
Chiefs rookie hooker Bradley Slater will be joined by an experienced bench of props in All Blacks Atu Moli and Angus Ta’avao. Pita Gus Sowakula will provide loose forward cover. Backline cover will feature a ton of experience in All Black Brad Weber, returning first five-eighth Aaron Cruden and All Black midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown.
Gatland said he was looking forward to seeing a competitive battle between the northern rivals.
“We have an exciting squad and we believe the team we have chosen reflects this. It is a great opportunity for our rookies to pull on the Chiefs jersey for the first time in what is expected to be a great competitive derby between two rival sides. We know the Blues will be a good sturdy challenge first up but one the boys and fans are excited about.”
Laghlan McWhannell, Luke Jacobson, Michael Allardice, Nathan Harris, Reuben O’Neill and Tumua Manu were all unavailable for selection.
Update:Chiefs fullback Shaun Stevenson has been called into the Chiefs starting fifteen and replaces McKenzie who has pulled up at training with a tight adductor.
1. Aidan Ross 2. Samisoni Taukei’aho 3. Nepo Laulala 4. Tyler Ardron 5. Mitchell Brown 6. Lachlan Boshier 7. Mitchell Karpik 8. Sam Cane (© 9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi 10. Kaleb Trask 11. Solomon Alaimalo 12. Alex Nankivell 13. Quinn Tupaea 14. Sean Wainui 15. Shaun Stevenson
Reserves: 16. Bradley Slater 17. Atu Moli 18. Angus Ta’avao 19. Naitoa Ah Kuoi 20. Pita Gus Sowakula 21. Brad Weber 22. Aaron Cruden) 23. Anton Lienert-Brown