Rugby: Retallick's return on the cards

By Kris Shannon

Chiefs lock likely to take field against Crusaders after last week's head injury.

Brodie Retallick's inclusion in the team will be vital for the Chiefs' lineout. Photo / Getty Images
Brodie Retallick's inclusion in the team will be vital for the Chiefs' lineout. Photo / Getty Images

The Chiefs look set to receive a big boost in the form of Brodie Retallick for the latest chapter in New Zealand rugby's best rivalry.

The lock should be available for Saturday night's crunch encounter with the Crusaders, having shown promising signs in shaking off the head knock he suffered last weekend.

After being forced from the field with 10 minutes remaining against the Rebels, Retallick struggled with recollection immediately after the match. But he has shown no concussion symptoms since Saturday night and, all going to plan, should be free to line up opposite his All Blacks teammates at Waikato Stadium.

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"He's been ticking the boxes so far," coach Dave Rennie said at training on Monday. "He just had a run so, assuming he comes through that with no symptoms, we'll get him into a bit of contact later in the week.

"If he comes through that then he'll be able to play."

Retallick's inclusion will be vital for a Chiefs lineout that in recent games has shown signs of improvement. Having reached a nadir against Victor Matfield and the Bulls last month, the champs' forward pack has since won 22 lineouts while squandering just three.

If that success is to continue against an All Black-laden Crusaders pack, Retallick will need to be near his best. He has previously demonstrated a propensity for playing against test teammate Sam Whitelock, while young hooker Rhys Marshall would undoubtedly be reassured to see his familiar presence at lineout time.

Retallick's influence was further illustrated against the Rebels last week when he earned a temporary promotion in the absence of Liam Messam and Aaron Cruden. Instead of handing the captaincy to one of the old heads, Rennie opted to appoint Retallick in recognition of the 22-year-old's leadership potential.

If his recovery continues unabated, Retallick will join a forward pack much healthier than it was during the Chiefs' opening round win over the Crusaders. Liam Squire has returned from the neck injury that saw him on the sidelines in Africa, while Latimer and Sam Cane will be available after missing the week one clash.

In the backs, Mils Muliaina is a question mark but Asaeli Tikoirotuma is a possibility to play, potentially boosting a backline still ravaged by injuries to the likes of Cruden, Robbie Fruean and Charlie Ngatai. The backline could feature as few as two of the faces that began the campaign with a gutsy 18-10 victory in Christchurch.

But Rennie was more concerned with the material benefits of triumphing over a side currently sitting six points in arrears.

"It's more around banking the points," he said. "If we win, we strengthen our position; if we lose, we sort of fall back into the pack. So it's a big weekend for both sides."

- APNZ

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