Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan has named his team to face the Blues at Eden Park on Saturday 1 May.
The youthful twenty-three includes six debutants, providing players with the opportunity to put their hand up to stake their claim for selection in the coming weeks.
Propping duo of Ollie Norris and Sione Mafileo are promoted from the bench to start alongside hooker Bradley Slater who re-joins the twenty-three. Locking duo of Samipeni Finau and Josh Lord will start in jersey’s four and five. Counties Manukau loose froward Viliami Taulani and Tongan International Zane Kapeli will don jersey six and seven respectively for their Sky Super Rugby debuts. Powerful Pita Gus Sowakula remains unchanged, starting at number eight.
In the backs, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi shifts to start combining with first five-eighth Bryn Gatland. Rameka Poihipi is promoted to start at second five-eighth with Alex Nankivell side-lined by injury. Poihipi combines with Sean Wainui who will captain the side for the first time. Shaun Stevenson and Bailyn Sullivan will excite fans on the wings, while playmaker Kaleb Trask will start in the number fifteen jersey.
In the reserves, hooker Nathan Harris will be joined by hopeful debutant Ezekiel Lindenmuth and tight head prop Joe Apikotoa as front row replacements. Experienced campaigner Liam Messam returns for his 180th cap in the Gallagher Chiefs jersey after being called into the squad earlier this week. Messam will line up beside Taranaki debutant Tom Florence as loose forward cover. Halfback Xavier Roe returns for his second cap, with exciting utility cover in Rivez Reihana and University of Waikato Chiefs Under 20 captain Gideon Wrampling to complete the twenty-three. Reihana and Wrampling will also be hoping to make their Sky Super Rugby debuts.
For the hosts Blues, the forward pack is relatively unchanged although Tom Robinson returns to blindside and captaincy with outstanding Dalton Papalii out with a knee injury and replaced by lively Auckland player Adrian Choat for his fourth appearance.
There are changes in the backline with Finlay Christie returning to start at halfback with Otere Black at pivot while Tanielu Tele’a gets another chance after being taken off following his heavy collision off the ball last weekend.
The changes come further out where the experienced Bryce Heem gets his second start on the right wing alongside exciting 20-year-old Zarn Sullivan who makes his debut at fullback, following an impressive Auckland debut in the Mitre 10 Cup.
There’s a strong look to the bench including All Blacks Ofa Tuungafasi and Akira Ioane, who played strongly off the bench last week.
The Blues:15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Rieko Ioane ©, 12 Tanielu Tele’a, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Adrian Choat, 6 Tom Robinson ©, 5 Sam Darry, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Reserves: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Ofa Tuungafasi, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 AJ Lam
Gallagher Chiefs: 1. Ollie Norris (10) 2. Bradley Slater (20) 3. Sione Mafileo (4) 4. Samipeni Finau (5) 5. Josh Lord (1) 6. Viliami Taulani** 7. Zane Kapeli** 8. Pita Gus Sowakula (32) 9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (44) 10. Bryn Gatland (4) 11. Shaun Stevenson (37) 12. Rameka Poihipi (1) 13. Sean Wainui © (42) 14. Bailyn Sullivan (4) 15. Kaleb Trask (12)
Reserves: 16. Nathan Harris (60) 17. Ezekiel Lindenmuth** 18. Joe Apikotoa (3) 19. Liam Messam (179) 20. Tom Florence** 21. Xavier Roe (1) 22. Rivez Reihana** 23. Gideon Wrampling**