Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Chiefs can do no wrong as coach rings changes

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Brendon Leonard is returning to the Chiefs, after recovering from an injury. Photo / Getty Images.
Brendon Leonard is returning to the Chiefs, after recovering from an injury. Photo / Getty Images.

Perception, judgment and bias are all elements which affect public appraisal of rugby teams.

There are other components but those who follow the sport always justify their support for one side.

Favouring an international side is straightforward but gauging people's Super 15 approval is often more difficult to fathom.

Birthplace or workplace helps but other reasons like schooling, best holiday or a favourite player might carry some influence.

Plenty of negative comment followed the Blues when coach John Kirwan and his group decided to make multiple changes after two strong wins against New Zealand franchises.

When they fell to the Bulls, the criticism went up another level.

Kirwan defended his decision and even after the defeat said he was content about the arrangement.

Several changes occurred to protect injured players, the others were to judge players of equal merit and that needed to be done before their bye.

Now the Chiefs have done something similar with six alterations for tonight's duel with the Blues at Mt Maunganui. Some key men like Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Tim Nanai-Williams are injured but others were straight swaps. The reaction has been whisper quiet.

The Chiefs are on a four-win, one-loss stretch with their first bye to come and they have benched in-form men like All Black flanker Sam Cane and midfield back Andrew Horrell.

It could be a masterstroke but there does not seem to be any tut-tutting or questioning.

Why? The Chiefs are the defending champions and Dave Rennie and co have delivered consistently, or perhaps the consensus is that the Chiefs will beat the Blues anyway.

Then there is the case of Brendon Leonard. The former All Black halfback returns to the Chiefs bench after recovering from the broken cheekbone he suffered pre-season.

His return is opportune after Kerr-Barlow broke his jaw last round. But it came with some curious comments.

While Richard Kahui received some unfavourable All Black comment for not discussing his offshore contract with the panel, Leonard has taken a different tack in trying to ratchet up his domestic deal.

"Hopefully I can stay around," he said. "It's a little out of my control in some respects. It's a matter of getting consistent game time and showing my value here at New Zealand rugby."

Leonard's choice is a bit like tonight's game and the selection ideas.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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