PREVIEW: Western Force v Chiefs
Thursday, April 20, 2017 allblacks.com Getty Images
The Chiefs were on fire in the opening rounds of Investec Super Rugby with five straight victories. The South African road trip proved difficult though with a loss to the Stormers followed up by a dramatic come-from-behind win over the Cheetahs. The Force have won two and lost four, but have strong form at home with both of their wins coming in Perth.
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The Chiefs have been plagued by front row injuries in 2017 and the news doesn’t get better this week with Kane Hames ruled out with a shoulder injury. Siegfried Fisi’ihoi has been promoted to loosehead prop and Bay of Plenty front rower Aidan Ross has been named on the bench. If Ross gets on the field for his Super Rugby debut, he will be the tenth front row forward the Chiefs have used this season.
It’s shaping as a titanic battle in the fifteen jersey with Damian McKenzie lining up against Force flyer Dane Haylett-Petty. Both players enjoyed a rapid rise in 2016 and were rewarded with debuts for their international sides. Haylett-Petty is a slick counter-attacker and will be looking to take advantage of any opportunities given by the Chiefs. Damian McKenzie has ran more metres than any other player in 2017 and is sure to maintain his attacking game-plan against the Force.
The Force have made a number of changes to the side that beat the Kings 46-41 in a high-scoring thriller last week. There is a re-jigged second row with Ross Haylett-Petty moving from blindside flanker to lock and young Scottish lock Lewis Carmichael making his debut in the number four jersey. Regular captain Ben McCalman has been ruled out with a shoulder injury and is replaced by Western Australian product Richard Hardwick. In the backs, Wallaby wing Luke Morahan returns to the starting lineup and there is a new halves pairing with halfback Ian Prior and young playmaker Luke Burton combining.
The Chiefs have won eight out of their last 10 meetings with the Force, but the Force won the last time the sides met in Perth.
After a tough three weeks on the road, the Chiefs will be looking forward to returning to their Hamilton base but cannot afford any complacency against the Force. The Perth-based side are unbeaten at home this year and will be desperate to maintain that record. With an experienced forward pack and potent backline, the Chiefs should have enough firepower to see off the challenge of the Force - but it won’t be easy.
Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Shaun Stevenson, Sam McNicol, Anton Lienert-Brown, James Lowe, Aaron Cruden (co-c), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Michael Leitch, Sam Cane (co-c), Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Dominic Bird, Atu Moli, Brayden Mitchell, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi.
Reserves: Hika Elliot, Aidan Ross, Sefo Kautai, Taleni Seu, Lachlan Boshier, Finlay Christie, Stephen Donald, Toni Pulu
Force: Dane Haylett-Petty, Curtis Rona, Marcel Brache, Bill Meakes, Luke Morahan, Luke Burton, Ian Prior, Richard Hardwick, Matt Hodgson (C), Isi Naisarani, Ross Haylett-Petty, Lewis Carmichael, Tetera Faulkner, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Ben Daley
Reserves: Heath Tessmann, Francois Van Wyk, Pek Cowan, Onehunga Havilli, Mitch Short, Jono Lance, Alex Newsome.
We had an awesome time yesterday, meeting our passionate I AM CHIEFS members in Perth at an exclusive training. #IamChiefs #ChiefsMana pic.twitter.com/gcQs5K00Jv— Chiefs Rugby (@ChiefsRugby) April 20, 2017
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