Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Canes looking settled but injuries hit visitors again

Blade Thomson. Photo / Duncan Brown
Blade Thomson. Photo / Duncan Brown

The Chiefs had 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 tomorrow.

They are without in-form left wing James Lowe, who failed a test on his shoulder yesterday, 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.

Coach 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.

In another change, Tom Sanders comes in for Ma'ama 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 Park.

"We are building a lot of competition in the squad through performance and there were some tough calls when it came to selection," he said.

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," the Canes' coach said.

- NZ Herald

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