After two damaging New Zealand derbies to start the season, the Chiefs will rest players for next week's trip to face the Sunwolves.

All Blacks Sam Cane and Anton Lienert-Brown, and veteran first five-eighth Aaron Cruden, will not feature in the side for the clash in Tokyo - both to give them a break and allow other players to get some gametime.

The Chiefs have started the season with wins over the Blues and Crusaders, with dominant second half performances seeing them come from behind to win both games.

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With games away to the Sunwolves and the Brumbies in the coming weeks, coach Warren Gatland said it was a good time to rotate his squad.

"It's important at the start of the season we rotate the squad, but we also have to keep other players in the squad getting a chance.

"These first four games are pretty crucial to hopefully setting us up to having a good season."

A number of players in the Chiefs' wider squad were in action before the side's win over the Crusaders, suiting up for provincial unions Taranaki, Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Counties Manukau as part of the inaugural Chiefs Country Centurion Cup. The quadrangular tournament which will be played as curtain raisers to Chiefs home games gives players such as Kini Naholo and Sam McNicol the chance to get gametime and provides the chance of more exposure for players in the various regional teams.

"It's a big week next week. Players will be rested, but players coming in next week for the Sunwolves in Tokyo hopefully come in with some confidence and excitement about the chance to go up against the Sunwolves," said Gatland.

While some of the team's top level players will be rested, fullback Damian McKenzie, who made his season debut in the win over the Crusaders after being a late scratching in the opening round, is expected to feature in Tokyo.

Damian McKenzie is expected to play against the Sunwolves while other All Blacks will be rested by the Chiefs. Photo / Getty Images
Damian McKenzie is expected to play against the Sunwolves while other All Blacks will be rested by the Chiefs. Photo / Getty Images

McKenzie impressed in his return to the pitch after a long layoff due to a torn ACL suffered last season, showing no signs of any lingering ailments.

He and halfback Brad Weber were instrumental in orchestrating the side's comeback over the Crusaders, as both threatened with ball in hand and stood up defensively.


While there were questions around how long McKenzie would play against the Crusaders, when asked about playing the full 80 minutes, the fullback couldn't fight off a cheeky grin.

"Mate I just love playing footy, that's it," McKenzie said. "I'm just happy to be out there and play as long as have. Obviously I lost a few minutes last year so I'm trying to make up for a few this year."