Rugby: Muliaina to start for Chiefs

Mils Muliaina. Photo / Stephen Barker.
Mils Muliaina. Photo / Stephen Barker.

Mils Muliaina has shrugged off what seemed a serious elbow injury to take his place at fullback for the Chiefs clash against the Highlanders on Saturday night.

The match at Waikato Stadium pits the New Zealand conference's only two unbeaten teams, after the Chiefs edged the Crusaders 18-10 and the Highlanders beat the Blues 29-21 in round one.

Muliaina lasted less than a half in the Chiefs' impressive victory, appearing to re-injure the elbow which required surgery and cut short his stint in Japan.

Coach Dave Rennie said after the match that Muliaina's prognosis didn't look good, but scans earlier this week cleared the former All Black for a return to duty.

He will be part of a Chiefs backline featuring just one change from last Friday night, with Tawera Kerr-Barlow shaking off a rolled ankle to replace the injured Augustine Pulu.

The forward pack is less settled, with a revamped front row and a reshuffle of the loose forwards seeing six changes from round one.

Mahonri Schwalger will make his long-awaited return to rugby after sitting out the 2013 ITM Cup, replacing Rhys Marshall at hooker. Schwalger will be joined by props Ben Tameifuna and Pauliasi Manu, playing in place of Jamie Mackintosh who drops to the bench.

Fellow prop Ben Afeaki and lock Brodie Retallick have both been ruled out after the sickening head clash during the Crusaders match, with the All Black lock replaced in the run-on XV by Matt Symons.

Tanerau Latimer returns from arm and pectoral injuries to start in place of Tevita Koloamatangi, while Nick Crosswell comes into the side at openside flanker. Co-captain Liam Messam will move to the back of the scrum in place of the injured Kane Thompson.

After blooding seven new Chiefs last week, including five Super Rugby debutants, the Chiefs will increase that number with Liam Squire having his chance to make his debut off the bench.

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The Chiefs team to play the Highlanders at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday night:

Mils Muliaina, Tim Nanai-Williams, Robbie Fruean, Charlie Ngatai, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden (c), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Messam (c), Tanerau Latimer, Nick Crosswell, Matt Symons, Michael Fitzgerald, Ben Tameifuna, Mahonri Schwalger, Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Rhys Marshall, Jamie Mackintosh, Josh Hohneck, Tevita Koloamatangi, Liam Squire, Brad Webber, Andrew Horrell, James Lowe.

- APNZ

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