Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Injuries force Rennie to shake things up for Chiefs

Hurricanes lock Blade Thomson returns from injury to face the Chiefs at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
Hurricanes lock Blade Thomson returns from injury to face the Chiefs at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

The Chiefs enjoyed their first bye of the season last weekend but, despite the rest, they have still been forced to make several changes to their team for the crunch derby clash against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.

They are without in-form left wing James Lowe, who failed a test on his shoulder today, plus injury-plagued lock Dominic Bird, who made his debut for the Chiefs in their win over the Blues in Hamilton a fortnight ago due to a broken foot suffered in pre-season, only to now succumb to another problem.

Dave Rennie has named Sam McNicol in the No11 jersey, with Michael Allardice joining All Black Brodie Retallick in the second row.

Speedster Toni Pulu replaces Shaun Stevenson in the No14 jersey, with hooker Rhys Marshall replacing Hika Elliot, who drops to the reserves bench.

In another change, Tom Sanders comes in for Maama Vaipulu at blindside flanker.
The competition leaders will feel comfortable about the changes given their relative consistency and two-point lead at the top of the table, but the Hurricanes look to be a much more settled side.

Blade Thomson's return from injury is the only change to their starting line-up, the loose forward returning from a bruised knee which kept him out of the team's comfortable victory over the Rebels in Melbourne.

Coach Chris Boyd said his selections reflected the bonus-point victory at AAMI Stadium.
"We are building a lot of competition in the squad through performance and there were some tough calls when it came to selection, but this group got the job done away from home last week and there weren't any compelling reasons to make too many changes," he said.

Boyd has also been able to strengthen his bench with several players returning from minor injuries.

Openside Callum Gibbins is back after a week off due to a sore Achilles, halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi has recovered from a swollen knee, and utility back James Marshall is over the concussion that kept him out of the last two matches.

Boyd said there was no doubt the Chiefs represented a significant step up for the squad.
"I won't have to say a lot this week. The team knows this is a big match and the Chiefs form and team sheet speak for themselves. They are a well-coached side that poses threats across the park. We will have to be at our best at both ends of the park if we want to compete."

Hurricanes team to play the Chiefs at Westpac Stadium on Saturday, kick-off 7.35pm is:
15 Jason Woodward
14 Cory Jane
13 Matt Proctor
12 Vince Aso
11 Julian Savea
10 Beauden Barrett
9 TJ Perenara (vc)
8 Victor Vito
7 Ardie Savea
6 Brad Shields
5 Michael Fatialofa
4 Blade Thomson
3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen
2 Dane Coles (c)
1 Reggie Goodes
Reserves: Motu Matu'u, Chris Eves, Loni Uhila, Vaea Fifita, Callum Gibbins, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, James Marshall, Willis Halaholo.

15. Damian McKenzie
14. Toni Pulu
13. Seta Tamanivalu
12. Charlie Ngatai
11. Sam McNicol
10. Aaron Cruden (co-captain)
9. Brad Weber
8. Michael Leitch
7. Sam Cane (co-captain)
6. Tom Sanders
5. Brodie Retallick
4. Michael Allardice
3. Atu Moli
2. Rhys Marshall
1. Mitchell Graham
Reserves: Hika Elliot, Siate Tokolahi, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Taleni Seu, Maama Vaipulu, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Andrew Horrell, Glen Fisiiahi.

- NZ Herald

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