Aaron Cruden's long-awaited return from injury has been slightly delayed, with the first five-eighth named on the bench to face the Hurricanes this weekend.

Cruden has been missing from action since breaking his thumb last month in South Africa and, with his six-week recovery period elapsing during the bye week, he looked set to take his position at pivot on Saturday night.

But Dave Rennie has opted to rest his most important player a little longer, naming Gareth Anscombe to start in the No 10 jersey in the battle between the New Zealand conference's first and fourth placed sides.

Cruden caught and passed for the first time on Tuesday while away with the All Blacks and, having returned to Hamilton only on Wednesday, the Chiefs may want to give the 25-year-old more time to readjust in training.


In Anscombe they have a capable replacement. The former Blues man has improved every week he has started in Cruden's absence and he had his best game at first five against his old team before the bye.

The Chiefs emerged from their week off still on top of the conference, and that position will be strengthened with another win on Saturday. Aiding their cause is the return from injury of wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma and centre Charlie Ngatai, who make up two of the three changes to the starting XV.

Elsewhere, Tim Nanai-Williams starts at fullback after re-signing for the Chiefs through the 2015 season, while Tom Marshall moves to the bench.

Chiefs team to play Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday night:
Tim Nanai-Williams, Dwayne Sweeney, Charlie Ngatai, Bundee Aki, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Gareth Anscombe, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Messam (c), Sam Cane, Tanerau Latimer, Brodie Retallick, Michael Fitzgerald, Ben Tameifuna, Nathan Harris, Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Mahonri Schwalger, Jamie Mackintosh, Josh Hohneck, Kane Thompson, Liam Squire, Brad Weber, Aaron Cruden, Tom Marshall.