Rugby: Cruden returns to run-on XV

Aaron Cruden is the most noteworthy inclusion as the Chiefs try to keep pace in the congested New Zealand conference. Photo / Getty Images.
Aaron Cruden is the most noteworthy inclusion as the Chiefs try to keep pace in the congested New Zealand conference. Photo / Getty Images.

The Chiefs have reacted to their humbling against the Hurricanes by changing half their side for Saturday's "season-defining" clash against the Waratahs.

Aaron Cruden is the most noteworthy inclusion as the Chiefs try to keep pace in the congested New Zealand conference, with the fully-recovered first five-eight hungry for game time after an injury-enforced lay-off.

In his first start since April 6, Cruden will have be tasked with turning around the Chiefs' fortunes as well as playing his way into some form ahead of June's international series against England.

Neither job will be easy, with an understandably-rusty Cruden featuring for 30 minutes in the horror loss to the Hurricanes, a defeat that saw the Chiefs' defence run ragged.

With the Waratahs second to the Hurricanes in tries scored during this campaign, the Chiefs will need a substantial turnaround to avoid further embarrassment in New Plymouth.

And with that in mind, the defending champions have opted for a new midfield combination of Tim Nanai-Williams and Andrew Horrell, with Tasman utility Tom Marshall replacing the former at fullback.

In the forwards, the recently re-signed Liam Squire will start at No 8 as Liam Messam shifts to blindside flanker in place of Tanerau Latimer. Matt Symons will join Brodie Retallick in the locks, while Jamie Mackintosh earns a rare start in place of Pauliasi Manu.

The changes will have been carefully considered as the Chiefs aim to edge the second-placed Waratahs and avoid falling further behind the New Zealand conference leaders.
"With only two points separating the top four teams in the New Zealand Conference, every game is vital and this stems as season defining," said coach Dave Rennie.

"The Waratahs have been impressive and lead the Australian Conference. They have a huge pack and a backline full of game-breakers. Both teams play a positive brand of footy so it should be a hell of a contest."

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Chiefs team to play Waratahs at Yarrow Stadium on Saturday:
Tom Marshall, Dwayne Sweeney, Tim Nanai-Williams, Andrew Horrell, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden (c), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Squire, Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Matt Symons, Ben Tameifuna, Nathan Harris, Jamie Mackintosh. Reserves: Mahonri Schwalger, Pauliasi Manu, Josh Hohneck, Michael Fitzgerald, Tanerau Latimer, Brad Weber, Gareth Anscombe, Bundee Aki.

- APNZ

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