25 Feb 2016

Cruden returns for Chiefs

4:59 pm on 25 February 2016

All Blacks first-five Aaron Cruden will make his long awaited return for the Chiefs alongside five debutants in their Super Rugby season opener against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday night.

Aaron Cruden

Aaron Cruden Photo: Photosport

The debutants are the Japan prop Hiroshi Yamashita, loose forward Taleni Seu, number 8 Tom Sanders and wing Shaun Stevenson, who've been named to start and Latu Vaeno, who will hope to earn his first cap off the bench.

In the forwards, Pauliasi Manu, Rhys Marshall and Japan prop Hiroshi Yamashita will pack down in the front row with Michael Allardice and All Black Brodie Retallick at lock.

The loose forward trio consists of Seu, All Black Sam Cane and Canterbury number 8 Sanders.

In the backs, experienced All Black halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow gets the start, with Chiefs co-captain Cruden at first-five.

Charlie Ngatai and Seta Tamanivalu combine in the midfield with James Lowe and Shaun Stevenson on the wings.

Damian McKenzie will start at fullback.

Coach Dave Rennie said, "It's been a long build-up and we're all excited that the competitions finally about to start. Our 23 is a blend of youth and experience with several players making their Super Rugby debuts.

"We're really happy with the hard work and development that's gone into the past three months. History tells us that Chiefs and Crusaders clashes are physical and high paced encounters and I'm sure this weekend will be no different."

Not considered for selection were Nepo Laulala, Mitchell Karpik, Andrew Horrell, Hika Elliot, Toni Pulu, Augustine Pulu, Michael Leitch, Dominic Bird, Sam McNicol and Glen Fisiiahi.

The Chiefs team to play the Crusaders is:

1. Pauliasi Manu (45)

2. Rhys Marshall (22)

3. Hiroshi Yamashita**

4. Michael Allardice (7)

5. Brodie Retallick (59)

6. Taleni Seu**

7. Sam Cane (65) co-captain

8. Tom Sanders**

9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (56)

10. Aaron Cruden (56) co-captain

11. James Lowe (21)

12. Charlie Ngatai (31)

13. Seta Tamanivalu (6)

14. Shaun Stevenson**

15. Damian McKenzie (16)


16. Nathan Harris (12)

17. Mitchell Graham (11)

18. Siate Tokolahi (17)

19. Maama Vaipulu (10)

20. Johan Bardoul (8)

21. Brad Weber (24)

22. Anton Lienert-Brown (9)

23. Latu Vaeno**