13 Feb 2019

Rugby: Injury woes for Chiefs already

6:46 pm on 13 February 2019

A raft of injury problems has led to the surprise naming of former Blues mid-fielder Orbyn Leger at first five for the Chiefs super rugby opener against the Highlanders in Hamilton on Friday.

Leger who wasn't named in the intial Chiefs squad will play out of position, in place of injured All Black Damian McKenzie.

Head coach Colin Cooper has named four newcomers in the match day squad including Leger, All Blacks Sevens player Etene Nanai-Seturo, and Auckland centre Tumua Manu in the starting lineup while the Tongan-born Japan international winger Ataata Moeakiola is in the reserves.

After experiencing a shocking injury toll in 2018, Cooper has early headaches at No.10.

Damian McKenzie.

Damian McKenzie. Photo: Photosport

All Black Damian McKenzie (ankle), his brother Marty (hip) and Debreczeni (abdominal strain) are all sidelined.

It is a blow for Debreczeni, who returned to his native New Zealand late last year following five seasons at the Rebels, earning a Chiefs contract after

impressing at provincial level with Northland.

Veteran former All Black Stephen Donald was added to the Chiefs squad this week to bolster their ailing five-eighth stocks.

The 35-year-old is named on the bench.

All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick is captain for the first time while powerhouse props Atu Moli and Nepo Laulala both win selection after missing most of 2018 with serious injuries.

Five-eighth also provides the talking point for the Highlanders, who must cope with the departure of Lima Sopoaga to English club Wasps.

Otago No.10 Josh Ioane has seen off more experienced pair Bryn Gatland and Marty Banks.

Ioane will start outside Kayne Hammington, with Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger choosing to field All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith on the bench.

Test pair Ben Smith and Luke Whitelock are co-captains for the visitors in what will be their first games of the year.