Beaver’s back, Cruden benched for the Chiefs
Stephen Donald has been leading the Chiefs around the training paddock in Aaron Cruden’s absence and he’s the man who will pull the strings at 10 when they face the Crusaders in Fiji tomorrow.
Joining ‘Beaver’ in the Chiefs’ starting XV are Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane, who started all three of the All Blacks’ tests with Wales in the June international test window. Regular Chiefs firstfive Cruden has been named on the bench.
The Chiefs have made just three changes to their starting line-up that suffered a heavy 45-25 defeat to the Waratahs in their last game, at the end of May.
Hika Elliot will make his 100th appearance for the Chiefs at hooker, as he and Kane Hames replace Mitchell Graham and Nathan Harris in the front row.
Assistant coach Neil Barnes has revealed that Donald had been running the show while the Chiefs’ All Blacks were away, and Cruden’s neck injury in the second test in Wellington played no part in the selection process.
Barnes said the 32-year-old’s inspirational display in the 40-7 thrashing of Wales in Hamilton convinced the Chiefs coaches he
Damian McKenzie, Toni Pulu, Seta Tamanivalu, Anton Lienert-Brown, James Lowe, Stephen Donald, Brad Weber; Tom Sanders, Sam Cane, Taleni Seu, Brodie Retallick, Dominic Bird, Hiroshi Yamashita, Hika Elliot, Kane Hames. Reserves: Nathan Harris, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, Atu Moli, Mitchell Brown, Lachlan Boshier, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Sam McNicol. was ready for a starting Super Rugby again.
‘‘It wasn’t because Aaron is injured, because Aaron is ready to play,’’ said Barnes.
‘‘We’ve put three weeks hard work into this game and Stephen’s been right across it, driving training the whole time.
‘‘Going on his form in the Welsh game, which we thought was pretty good, we thought we’d give him the opportunity to go out there and run the game for us, but obviously Aaron will be coming out at some stage.
‘‘He’s a very experienced man and part of our attack group as well. The tactics for the Crusaders game have been driven by him and KK [Chiefs assistant coach Kieran Keane].
‘‘It saves Aaron having to walk back in from the All Blacks camp and drive things at training. He’s a very experienced player and at 10 it’s a big help to the side when you’ve got someone like that leading. He’s been awesome.’’ role in
Dave Rennie admitted that he wouldn’t start all of his All Blacks against the Crusaders at Suva’s ANZ Stadium tomorrow night.
But the two who started each test against Wales – Retallick and Cane – are named in the forwards, while Nathan Harris, Cruden and Tawera Kerr-Barlow will all come off the bench, with McKenzie, who didn’t play any minutes against Wales, resuming his duties at fullback.
Barnes said that Retallick and Cane were both ready to go for the game in Fiji, less than a week after the All Blacks demolished Wales 46-6 in the third test in Dunedin.
‘‘We’ve consulted with both of those guys and they’re both in good nick,’’ Barnes said of Cane and Retallick.
‘‘Obviously they had that high workload, which we hope they can manage.
‘‘At the end of the day, if we had other options out there to use, we probably would if they were at that level [of Cane and Retallick].
‘‘We’ve still got a lot of trust in the fellas behind them and we’ll just see how the game rolls along and play it by ear. They’re both in good nick and telling us they feel good physically, so we’ll see how we go.’’
Stephen Donald will start at first five-eighth for the Chiefs against the Crusaders in Fiji.
Aaron Cruden was the water boy in the All Blacks’ test against Wales last week.