Rugby: Kahui return confirmed

All Blacks utility Richard Kahui could be in line to make his long-awaited return to top-level rugby. Photo / Getty Images.
All Blacks utility Richard Kahui could be in line to make his long-awaited return to top-level rugby. Photo / Getty Images.

All Blacks utility Richard Kahui has been confirmed to take his place on the bench for the Chiefs in tonight's match against the Highlanders in Hamilton.

Kahui has been sidelined since injuring a shoulder in the middle of last year when he was led from the Suncorp Stadium pitch in a match the Chiefs lost to the Reds. He's now had four shoulder operations in six years and it was a factor in his decision to sign recently to play for Toshiba in Japan.

The 27-year-old was bracketed with Patrick Osborne on the bench but his place in the reserves was made official this morning. Lock Romana Graham has also been named in the reserves.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie made several changes to the side that beat the Kings 35-24 last weekend, mindful of the fact they have a short turnaround since returning from South Africa on Monday.

It will be the second meeting with the Highlanders this season, with the Chiefs running out 41-27 winners in Dunedin in their first match as they look to defend their Super Rugby title.

Co-captain Craig Clarke will sit out the match out as a precaution after receiving a slight knock to the head last week and will be replaced by Michael Fitzgerald. Nick Crosswell will start in the No 8 jersey with Ross Filipo out for 8-10 weeks with a knee injury and Pauliasi Manu starts at prop and Ben Afeaki moves to the bench.

"We are expecting a similar battle to our first game against the Highlanders,'' Rennie said. "It was physical and fast and this week will be nothing less.

"It will be a special game as we will be honouring Liam Messam for becoming the first person to have played 100 matches for the Chiefs. To acknowledge his impressive achievement in front of our home crowd will be a great occasion.''

Messam brought up the milestone against the Kings but this will be the first time he has played in Hamilton since.

Chiefs team to play the Highlanders at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, on Friday (7.35pm): Gareth Anscombe, Lelia Masaga, Tim Nanai-Williams, Andrew Horrell, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Nick Crosswell, Sam Cane, Liam Messam (c), Brodie Retallick, Michael Fitzgerald, Ben Tameifuna, Hika Elliot, Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Rhys Marshall, Ben Afeaki, Romana Graham, Tanerau Latimer, August Pulu, Charlie Ngatai, Richard Kahui.

- APNZ

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