Brodie Retallick will return from the longest injury lay-off of his professional rugby career to tackle the Blues this weekend.

The reigning world player of the year has been missing from the Chiefs' line-up for five weeks but will take his place at lock for Saturday night's encounter in Hamilton.

Retallick has played only 50 minutes in this Super Rugby season, with the All Black initially rested in the opening rounds before suffering a shoulder injury in his first start of the campaign against the Crusaders.

It's fair to say, then, that the 23-year-old is champing at the bit ahead of his return to action.


"That's a good word to describe it - he is itching," said assistant coach Tom Coventry. "It's marvellous to have him back, he was obviously the best player in the world in 2014 and we'd like to form to continue.

"I think he's had the longest break from rugby with an injury since he was in teenager, so he's been pretty lucky as a forward who hits pretty hard to have not been out of the game for longer than three or four weeks. He's certainly ready to go, that's for sure."

Retallick replaces the unlucky Mike Fitzgerald for the match against the winless Blues, one of seven changes to the Chiefs' run-on XV.

The only other alterations to the pack come in the front row, where Hika Elliot returns at hooker after a one-week suspension and Mitchell Graham earns his first start at prop ahead of Pauliasi Manu.

The backline, though, has something of a different look. Augustine Pulu will take over the halfback jersey after Brad Weber enjoyed a consistent run of selection, while Andrew Horrell will start outside of Sonny Bill Williams after replacing Seta Tamanivalu at centre.

And in the back three, James Lowe returns to the left wing after missing last week's win over the Cheetahs, seeing Tom Marshall shift to the right wing in place of Bryce Heem.

The Blues may be coming into the clash with an 0-6 record but, after battling to a 23-18 win over their derby rivals in week one, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie was expected another tight affair.

"The matches between these two teams are traditionally real arm wrestles," he said. "The Blues have plenty of high quality players and have come close nearly every week, so we will give them the respect they deserve and expect it to be an entertaining, tough match."

Chiefs team to play at Blues at Waikato Stadium on Saturday night:

1. Mitchell Graham
2. Hika Elliot
3. Ben Tameifuna
4. Matt Symons
5. Brodie Retallick
6. Liam Messam ©
7. Sam Cane
8. Michael Leitch
9. Augustine Pulu
10. Aaron Cruden
11. James Lowe
12. Sonny Bill Williams
13. Andrew Horrell
14. Tom Marshall
15. Damian McKenzie

16. Quentin MacDonald
17. Siate Tokolahi
18. Pauliasi Manu
19. Michael Allardice
20. Liam Squire
21. Brad Weber
22. Anton Lienert-Brown
23. Bryce Heem