Covid affected Chiefs cobble team together for Moana Pasifika clash

The Chiefs have confirmed they have 17 players unavailable as the Covid affected side prepares for this weekend's game against Moana Pasifika.

Following a thrilling victory over the Crusaders in Christchurch, the Chiefs will play Moana Pasifika at Mt Smart Stadium this Saturday night, the only Super Rugby Pacific match in New Zealand this weekend.

The new fixture was announced yesterday due to COVID outbreaks in the Blues, Highlanders, and Crusaders squads which forced New Zealand Rugby to amend this weekend's schedule.

The Chiefs were originally set to play the Hurricanes and Moana Pasifika were to play the Highlanders.

In the Chiefs forward pack, the same front row that started against the Highlanders in round one has been named with Ollie Norris at loosehead prop, Bradley Slater at hooker and Sione Mafileo at tighthead.

Laghlan McWhannell starts at lock alongside All Black Brodie Retallick.

All Blacks loose forwards Sam Cane and Luke Jacobsen are among the 17 players unavailable, as well as All Blacks Samisoni Taukei'aho and Anton Lienert-Brown.

Tupou Vaa'i moves back to blindside flanker accompanied by Waikato and former Glasgow Warriors' flanker Hamilton Burr, who will make his Super Rugby Pacific debut on the openside.

Pita Gus Sowakula once again claims the starting Number 8 position.

In the backs, co-captain Brad Weber returns to start at halfback to pair up with first-five Bryn Gatland.

After scoring the match winner last week, Rameka Poihipi gains his first start of 2022 at second five-eighth with Alex Nankivell at centre.

In the back three, Jonah Lowe returns to the starting line-up on the left wing with Emoni Narawa shifting to the right wing.

Māori All Black Kaleb Trask gets his first start of the season at fullback to round out the starting fifteen.

Two possible Super Rugby Pacific debutants have been named on the bench with Wellington's Tyrone Thompson covering Slater at hooker and Waikato front rower Solomone Tukuafu named in jersey 18.

Atu Moli will round out the front row replacements in jersey 17.

Waikato's Samipeni Finau will be looking to get his first opportunity to take the field this season, as will returning senior Chief Mitch Brown in jerseys 19 and 20.

Covering the backline, utility back Rivez Reihana claims the number 21 jersey with Josh Ioane returning to the twenty-three in jersey 22. Quinn Tupaea shifts to the bench this week to round out the side to take the field at Mt Smart Stadium.

Head Coach Clayton McMillan said he's thankful for the depth in the squad and is looking forward to facing the new opponent.

"We are generating some great internal competition at training which is creating both an edge as well as confidence in the depth across our squad. We saw that last week against the Crusaders with a number of our younger players getting an opportunity and standing tall under some immense pressure. Whilst we were happy to get the win, we know we can be better, particularly around basic skills which have let us down at times.

"We look forward to playing Moana Pasifika for the first time officially. There is a lot of pride in their team and we know they will be eager to perform for their passionate fanbase. They have a talented squad and that was clear to see in their game against the Crusaders. We are certainly on high alert around the challenge they pose."

Chiefs team:

1. Ollie Norris

2. Bradley Slater

3. Sione Mafileo

4. Laghlan McWhannell

5. Brodie Retallick

6. Tupou Vaa'i

7. Hamilton Burr**

8. Pita Gus Sowakula

9. Brad Weber ©

10. Bryn Gatland

11. Jonah Lowe

12. Rameka Poihipi

13. Alex Nankivell

14. Emoni Narawa

15. Kaleb Trask


16. Tyrone Thompson**

17. Atu Moli

18. Solomone Tukuafu**

19. Samipeni Finau

20. Mitch Brown

21. Rivez Reihana

22. Josh Ioane

23. Quinn Tupaea

**Denotes Super Rugby Pacific debut

Unavailable for selection:

Luke Jacobson, Reuben O'Neill, Josh Lord, Angus Ta'avao, Kaylum Boshier, Gideon Wrampling, Cortez Ratima, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Sam Cane, Aidan Ross, Tom Florence, Simon Parker, Mitch Jacobson, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Dyer, Xavier Roe.


Photo Photosport  Caption: Sam Cane is one of the 17 players unavailable to play this weekend.