Rugby: Chiefs make wholesale changes

Only first five-eighth Gareth Anscombe has retained his position in the Chiefs' struggling backline. Photo / Getty Images.
Only first five-eighth Gareth Anscombe has retained his position in the Chiefs' struggling backline. Photo / Getty Images.

Dave Rennie has made clear his dissatisfaction with the Chiefs' current form, making a whopping 14 changes to his squad for the visit of the Lions on Saturday night.

The defending champions have managed only one win from their previous six fixtures and, after back-to-back defeats to the Crusaders and Brumbies, Rennie has opted for a complete reshuffle of his side.

There are nine changes in the starting XV from the team that was humbled in Canberra last weekend, with only first five-eighth Gareth Anscombe retaining his position in the champs' struggling backline.

Tom Marshall and Tim Nanai-Williams are also retained but both have switched position, with Nanai-Williams moving from the wing to fullback and Marshall from fullback to second five.

Tasman's James Lowe earns his first start on the wing since recovering from injury, while former Chief Dwayne Sweeney - recently returned from a stint in Japan - making his maiden start of the season on the other wing.

Marshall is joined in midfield by Charlie Ngatai, another player returning from injury, while Tawera Kerr-Barlow continues his competition with Augustine Pulu by seizing the starting halfback spot.

The forward pack is slightly more settled, even though Ben Tameifuna - the only Chief to have started every game of the campaign - has been moved to the reserves. He is replaced at prop by Josh Hohneck, while 22-year-old Nathan Harris joins a green front row at hooker.

The only other change in the forward pack comes at blindside flanker, where Tanerau Latimer replaces Nick Croswell to join Liam Messam and Sam Cane.

Despite their recent form, the Chiefs sit just one point off the top of the New Zealand conference, and Rennie was well aware that a win was needed against the lowly Lions.
"We know we are in control of our own destiny and this is a defining match for us," Rennie said. "We have boxed ourselves into a corner with recent results and now we need to come out fighting."


Chiefs team to play Lions in Hamilton on Saturday night:

Tim Nanai-Williams, Dwayne Sweeney, Charlie Ngatai, Tom Marshall, James Lowe, Gareth Anscombe, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Messam (c), Sam Cane, Tanerau Latimer, Brodie Retallick, Ross Filipo, Josh Hohneck, Nathan Harris, Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Mahonri Schwalger, Jamie Mackintosh, Ben Tameifuna, Matt Symons, Mike Fitzgerald, Brad Weber, Bundee Aki, Andrew Horrell.


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