All Black lock Dominic Bird will make his debut for the Chiefs against the Blues as Chiefs coach Dave Rennie makes five changes.
The experienced lock has been nursing a fractured foot that has seen him miss the opening six rounds of Super Rugby. During that time, Bird has remained a key figure off the field by helping the Chiefs improve their lineout with valuable advice.
Bird could have returned last week against the Brumbies but another few days training has seen him catapulted into the Chiefs starting line-up.
“Dominic has earnt his start, it is a great opportunity for him and he has contributed a hell of a lot off the field in regard to our lineout”, Rennie said.
Bird’s return comes at the expense of Michael Allardice who has played in every game for the Chiefs so far this season and gets a well-earned rest.
Bird will form a strong locking combination with Brodie Retallick who is also returning from injury.
Tom Sanders has suffered a shoulder injury that saw him unavailable for selection against the Blues.
“Tom is getting better and his physical intent has been great so his injury is unfortunate, but with that said Maama Vaipulu is chomping at the bit and is keen to play against the Blues”, Rennie said.
Joining Vaipulu in the starting line-up New Zealand U-20 captain Atu Moli, the prop making his third Chiefs appearance, and Shaun Stevenson makes his first start since injury back in the opening round of Super Rugby.
Toni Pulu has missed selection due to a minor calf injury, missing out on an opportunity to make a third-straight appearance.
Dave Rennie says the Blues are a well-skilled side that if given the chance, will put quick points on the Chiefs.
“The Blues are phenomenal athletes with game breakers all over the park, and if we turn the ball over, have ill-discipline, or kick ball away then we will be punished”, Rennie said.
Rennie says that the quality of the Chiefs ball cleanout and carry needs to be improved.
The Chiefs have had a much lighter week than normal after returning from Canberra late on Sunday night. In total, the Chiefs have played four different teams in four separate countries since the loss to the Lions back in March.