Rugby: Chiefs chop backline

First five Aaron Cruden is the only Chiefs back to retain his jersey for Friday's night's clash with the Highlanders. Photo / Getty
First five Aaron Cruden is the only Chiefs back to retain his jersey for Friday's night's clash with the Highlanders. Photo / Getty

The Chiefs will attempt to save their season with a brand new backline when they tackle the Hurricanes in Hamilton on Friday night.

Aaron Cruden is the only back to retain his jersey from the 29-25 loss against the Highlanders last week, while Dave Rennie has made just one change in the pack.

That sees prop Jamie Mackintosh replace Pauliasi Manu, with Rennie clearly content with the performance of the forwards during the damaging defeat in Dunedin.

The Chiefs certainly had few problems laying the groundwork to snatch a win but opportunities were continually squandered when the ball found its way to the backs.

As a result, Rennie has rung the changes for a match the Chiefs simply must win, one that in all likelihood will be their last home fixture of the season.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow, who impressed off the bench last week, replaces Augustine Pulu at halfback, giving him the opportunity to link with All Blacks teammate Cruden.

Asaeli Tikoirotuma and James Lowe will man the wing, with Dwayne Sweeney missing the matchday squad and Tom Marshall moving to fullback in place of Gareth Anscombe.

And in midfield Tim Nanai-Williams will combine with Charlie Ngatai, leaving Bundee Aki on the bench and Robbie Fruean out of the squad altogether.

Friday night's encounter will mark the official farewell for Tikoirotuma, Aki and Tanerau Latimer, who are all heading off shore to continue their careers.

That will undoubtedly provide an emotional boost for the two-time champions, whose title defence will come to an end with a loss.

"Having our home crowd support makes a huge difference to the team," said co-captain Liam Messam. "With the New Zealand conference so close, that huge vocal support is going to be important. We know how crucial this match is and want to play well for our fans and our boys leaving."

Chiefs team to play the Hurricanes at Waikato Stadium on Friday night:
Tom Marshall, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Tim Nanai-Williams, Charlie Ngatai, James Lowe, Aaron Cruden (c), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Squire, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Mike Fitzgerald, Ben Tameifuna, Mahonri Schwalger, Jamie Mackintosh. Reserves: Rhys Marshall, Pauliasi Manu, Nick Barrett, Matt Symons, Tevita Koloamatangi, Agustine Pulu, Gareth Anscombe, Bundee Aki.

- APNZ

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