Gibbes back at No 6

With doubt over the fitness of No 8 Steven Bates, powerhouse Sione Lauaki moves to the back of the scrum for Friday's match against the Cats in Hamilton, with Gibbes coming in on the blindside flank for the first time this season.

Coach Ian Foster has kept the same backline that took its chances well in the 40-5 thumping of the Sharks at Waikato Stadium last Friday.

In two changes to the pack Gibbes will return from a hamstring strain and Michael Collins, suffering from a stomach bug, makes way for Simms Davison at loosehead prop.

Gibbes made a similar shift from lock to the side of the scrum at about this stage last year and it paid off handsomely, earning first-choice No 6 status.

He was taken on the season-ending tour to Europe as a lock but a calf muscle injury before he played a game had him replaced by former captain Reuben Thorne, the man he had usurped earlier in the year.

Foster had no qualms over where Gibbes played.

"It's no debate for me. He's a lock and a six and can play either position really well depending on what the opposition offers," Foster said.

"Against a big set piece team like the Cats it's nice to have someone like him at six.

"The performance of the locks (Bernie Upton and Sean Hohneck) last week has meant we can bring Jono.

"And it gives us the path of least disruption by not naming Steven Bates in the 15 and putting Lauaki at No 8."

Bates has a hamstring injury and has been bracketed on the bench with Nili Latu.

Foster was pleased to retain the same back division, allowing rookies Stephen Donald (first five-eighth) and Niva Ta'auso (centre) another change to impress inside the paciest back three in the Super 12 - Sosene Anesi, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Sailosi Tagicakibau.

Meanwhile, Foster refused to say injury-plagued lock Keith Robinson had been ruled out of the Chiefs season.

After nine months on the sideline, Robinson strained his lower back on the morning of his planned return to first class rugby against the Sharks.

Foster said Robinson was once again undergoing rehabilitation.

When asked if he could play in the Rebel Sport Super 12, Foster simply replied, "He's been kept in the squad".


Sosene Anesi, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Niva Ta'auso, David Hill, Sailosi Tagicakibau, Stephen Donald, Byron Kelleher, Sione Lauaki, Marty Holah, Jono Gibbes (captain), Sean Hohneck, Bernie Upton, Deacon Manu, Aleki Lutui, Simms Davison.

Reserves: Adrian Cashmore, Keith Lowen, Kevin Senio, Steven Bates/Nili Latu, Wayne Ormond, Ben Castle, Scott Linklater.