The loose forward trio has so far this season been the Chiefs' only area in flux but that may change as early as next week.

There will be three new faces in the 6-8 jerseys for Friday's battle with the Blues in Hamilton, accounting for three-quarters of the changes to the starting XV that began the campaign with last week's win over the Highlanders.

That already represents a more settled side than Dave Rennie was able to employ in years past and, with the obvious caveat about potential injuries, that consistency in selection will only increase with Sam Cane's return.

The openside flanker, who was close to a spot on the bench against the Blues, should have sufficiently recovered from his ankle injury to feature next weekend. And with Liam Messam on Friday moving to his more familiar role on the blindside and Japanese captain Michael Leitch set to add his formidable presence to the back of the scrum, that group looms as an obvious first-choice when fit.


"I think we've got a fair bit of consistency," Rennie told Radio Sport. "Out front five is the same and a big chunk of our backline is starting again, aside from Tim Nanai-Williams coming in [for Toni Pulu]. So there's a bit of continuity there."

With that said, though, Rennie was open to exploring his options outside of the international trio headlining his loose forward group, explaining that desire was why Mitch Karpik found himself out of the squad altogether after an impressive Super Rugby debut.

"There's no issue [with Karpik]," Rennie said. "We're happy with our sevens and wanted to give Lachie [Boshier] a start. We were pretty happy with the way [Karpik] went, but we're also happy with some other guys and keen to give some boys some footy and create competition for places."

Chiefs team to play Blues in Hamilton on Friday night:

1. Kane Hames
2. Hika Elliot
3. Nepo Laulala
4. Dominic Bird
5. Brodie Retallick
6. Liam Messam
7. Lachlan Boshier
8. Michael Leitch
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow
10. Aaron Cruden (c)
11. James Lowe
12. Johnny Faauli
13. Anton Lienert-Brown
14. Tim Nanai-Williams
15. Damian McKenzie

Samisoni Taukei'aho, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Atu Moli, Taleni Seu, Tom Sanders, Jonathan Taumateine, Toni Pulu, Shaun Stevenson