11 Jun 2020

Chiefs pick Trask at first five, Cruden on bench for Super Rugby opener

4:14 pm on 11 June 2020

The Chiefs coach Warren Gatland has sprung a selection surprise for Saturday's Super Rugby Aotearoa opener against the Highlanders in Dunedin - picking rookie Kaleb Trask to start at first-five, with former All Black Aaron Cruden on the bench.

Kaleb Trask.
Chiefs Training, Hamilton.

Kaleb Trask. Chiefs Training, Hamilton. Photo: © Copyright Jeremy Ward / www.photosport.nz Photosport Ltd 2020

Loose forward Lachlan Boshier will play his 50th game for the Chiefs with All Black flanker Sam Cane sidelined with a stiff back.

Taranaki lock Tupou Vaa'i will start on debut, while All Blacks Nepo Laulala and Luke Jacobson return from injury to start at prop and blindside respectively.

Gatland says Cruden only resumed training last week after an injury layoff and says Trask deserves his chance.

The Chiefs will mark their return to rugby wearing their limited-edition Women in Rugby jersey.

It will not only be a world first for Super Rugby Aotearoa kicking off, loose forward Lachlan Boshier will be celebrating his 50th game in the Chiefs jersey and Taranaki lock Tupou Vaa'i will start on debut.

The front row will be bolstered with the return of All Black tighthead prop Nepo Laulala.

Laulala will be joined by loosehead prop Aidan Ross and hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho.

The locking duo of Mitchell Brown and Vaa'i will complete the tight five.

In the loose forwards All Black Luke Jacobson returns at blindside with Boshier on the openside. Sam Cane is out injured and Pita Gus Sowakula will pack down the scrum at number eight.

In the backs, halfback Brad Weber will captain the side in the absence of Chiefs and All Blacks Captain Sam Cane.

All Black midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown will start at second five-eighth, with rookie Quinn Tupaea named at centre.

Sean Wainui is on the left wing, Shaun Stevenson on the right and Damian McKenzie is at fullback.

Gatland said the team were eager to kick the competition off.

"It will be a competitive hit out on Saturday, and one the fans, players and coaches alike are all looking forward to. It has been a long time between drinks, and everyone is excited for a great game. The squad have been training hard over the past four weeks and are eager to get stuck into their work."

Gatland congratulated Boshier and Vaa'i on their upcoming achievements.

"It is a special milestone to tick off for Lachlan. He is a hard worker and has an exciting future ahead of him."

"Tupou has quickly adapted to the Chiefs environment and we look forward to seeing him take the field on Saturday."

Chiefs matchday 23:

1. Aidan Ross (31)

2. Samisoni Taukei'aho (28)

3. Nepo Laulala (33)

4. Mitchell Brown (38)

5. Tupou Vaa'i**

6. Luke Jacobson (22)

7. Lachlan Boshier (49)

8. Pita Gus Sowakula (20)

9. Brad Weber (77) ©

10. Kaleb Trask (4)

11. Sean Wainui (30)

12. Anton Lienert-Brown (74)

13. Quinn Tupaea (4)

14. Shaun Stevenson (48)

15. Damian McKenzie (76)


16. Bradley Slater (7)

17. Ryan Coxon (5)

18. Ross Geldenhuys (5)

19. Naitoa Ah Kuoi (6)

20. Dylan Nel (1)

21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (36)

22. Aaron Cruden (94)

23. Etene Nanai-Seturo (11)

Unavailable for selection:

Atu Moli (hips), Angus Ta'avao (quad), Laghlan McWhannell (knee), Michael Allardice (shoulder), Mitchell Karpik (back strain), Nathan Harris (shoulder), Sam Cane (lower back strain), Sam McNicol (ankle).