Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Rennie selects top loose forwards

Sam Cane. Photo / Getty Images
Sam Cane. Photo / Getty Images

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie is wary of focusing too much on the attacking threats of Will Genia and Quade Cooper, but there is little doubt the selection of his best loose forward trio is a nod to the two Reds players' ability.

Rennie has gone for Sam Cane and Tanerau Latimer as his flankers, with captain Liam Messam at No8 for the match at Waikato Stadium tomorrow afternoon. All are extremely mobile and pacey, important in particular when countering halfback Genia's runs around the fringes.

The threesome has started together only once this season - in the narrow defeat by the Stormers in Cape Town - and Rennie was happy to admit Cane and Messam, current All Blacks, and Latimer, a former representative of the national team, were his best loose forwards.

He said Fritz Lee's illness this week - food poisoning, which came on top of a root canal - was not a factor in the selection process. Lee, who has started at No8 in three of the Chiefs' six games, has been named on the reserves bench. Messam has played mainly at blindside flanker this season, with Ross Filipo and Nick Crosswell occasional No8s.

"They are our three best loosies, certainly Sam and Tanerau have been outstanding," Rennie said. "They've been really strong defensively and at the breakdown. They've both been carrying strongly and they've got good continuity games.

"It does give us a fair bit of strength in that area."

Rennie thought Messam had had a quiet start to the season but had picked things up in the victories over the Kings, Highlanders and Blues which followed the loss to the Stormers.

It is clear that Rennie and the Chiefs see the Reds' counter-attacking threat as particularly dangerous. While the Reds are missing the injured Digby Ioane on one wing, his replacement Rod Davies will be one of the quickest on the field.

Ben Tapuai, thriving after a move to second-five, is, like Genia, in impressive form.

"They've got threats all over the park," added Rennie. "Obviously [flanker Liam] Gill's very good over the ball, as are a number of their guys. We need to get them off the pill quickly. We need to be at our best and we need to treasure the ball because if you turn it over you can get really punished by these guys.

"We're well aware of how they went through us last year [a 42-27 loss for the Chiefs at Suncorp Stadium]. We've put a lot of emphasis on our defence but also when we have the ball because even though we've scored the most points in the competition we're not where we want to be yet. We know we can be better."

The Chiefs beat the Reds, who also had a bye last weekend, on the Sunshine Coast in a pre-season match but have lost the past three competition games against them.

Ben Tameifuna gets a rare start at tighthead prop. The other change to the team which beat the Blues at Mt Maunganui sees Tim Nanai-Williams on the wing after recovering from a groin injury. He had previously been playing centre but Richard Kahui's form there since returning from a shoulder problem suggests Nanai-Williams will be spending more time on the wing or at fullback from now on.

Chiefs: Gareth Anscombe, Tim Nanai-Williams, Richard Kahui, Bundee Aki, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden, Augustine Pulu, Liam Messam (c), Sam Cane, Tanerau Latimer, Brodie Retallick, Michael Fitzgerald, Ben Tameifuna, Hika Elliot, Toby Smith. Reserves: Rhys Marshall, Michael Kainga, Nick Crosswell, Fritz Lee, Brendon Leonard, Andrew Horrell, Patrick Osborne.

Reds: Jono Lance, Dom Shipperley, Anthony Faingaa, Ben Tapuai, Rod Davies, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Eddie Quirk, James Horwill (c), Rob Simmons, James Slipper, James Hanson, Greg Holmes. Reserves: Albert Anae, Ben Daley, Ed O'Donoghue, Jarrad Butler, Ben Lucas, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Aidan Toua.

- APNZ

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