Bryn Gatland has been thrown the No 10 jersey for his Chiefs debut in their Super Rugby Aotearoa opener and wants to make the role his own after returning home.
The first five-eighth, born and raised in Waikato, is one of five debutants new Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan has selected for tomorrow’s clash against the Highlanders, one of Gatland’s former sides.
The other four poised for debut in Hamilton are former Blues prop Sione Mafileo as starting tighthead, replacement player Samipeni Finau is a surprise pick at blindside flanker, former Hurricane Jonah Lowe starts on the right-wing, and Xavier Roe is the reserve halfback ahead of the injured Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.
All Black Damian McKenzie has been kept at fullback.
The Highlanders take on the Chiefs at 6.05pm Friday while the Crusaders take on the Hurricanes at 3.35pm Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Waratahs will take on the Western Force in Super Rugby Australia at 8.45pm Friday while the Brumbies take on the Rebels at the same time Saturday.
Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Jonah Lowe, Sean Wainui, Anton Lienert-Brown, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Bryn Gatland, Brad Weber (cc); Luke Jacobson, Sam Cane (cc), Samipeni Finau, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Tupou Vaa’i, Sione Mafileo, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Reuben O’Neill. Reserves: Bradley Slater, Ollie Norris, Angus Ta’avao, Mitchell Brown, Mitchell Karpik, Xavier Roe, Alex Nankivell, Shaun Stevenson.
Highlanders: Mitchell Hunt, Connor Garden-Bachop, Ngantungane Punivai, Sio Tomkinson, Jona Nareki, Josh Ioane, Folau Fakatava; Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Billy Harmon, Shannon Frizell, Jack Regan, Josh Dickson, Siate Tokolahi, Ash Dixon (cc), Daniel Lienert-Brown. Reserves: Liam Coltman, Josh Hohneck, Jeff Thwaites, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Liam Squire, Aaron Smith (cc), Solomon Alaimalo, Hugh Renton.
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