'It's do or die' - Chiefs recall All Blacks firepower for quarter-final showdown with Hurricanes

The Chiefs have injected their All Blacks contingent back into their squad for this week's quarter-final clash with the Hurricanes after their 28-24 win over the Wellington side in Hamilton in the last round.

The Chiefs have made several changes to their starting XV as they head to the capital for the contest.

Whirlwind All Black Karl Tu’inukuafe and Nathan Harris are back in the front row, while Sam Cane also returns to the team at openside flanker.

In the backs, Damian McKenzie comes back in at first-five, with Charlie Ngatai starting at 12 and Sean Wainui slotting back in on the right wing.

Coach Colin Cooper said the team was ready to go up a gear now that the playoffs have arrived.

"It’s do or die at this point in the season, the winner takes all and we’ve talked about the importance of giving the best you can and your all for the jersey.

"We’ve put out a consistent team. Damian coming back brings a lot of X Factor into our game. We’re excited to see the combinations Damian, Charlie and Anton will bring as well as the leadership Sam Cane displays every time he takes the field."

Cooper added his side are aware of the threat the Hurricanes will bring at home.

"The Hurricanes are going to bring a lot of intelligent skills to the contest. I expect them to use a lot of variety and they have a very good backline so there’ll be lots of threats around the park."

Friday's contest kicks off at 7:30pm in Wellington.

Chiefs: Solomon Alaimalo, Sean Wainui, Anton Lienert-Brown, Charlie Ngatai (co-c), Shaun Stevenson, Damian McKenzie, Brad Weber, Liam Messam, Sam Cane (co-c), Lachlan Boshier, Michael Allardice, Brodie Retallick, Angus Ta'avao, Nathan Harris, Karl Tu'inukuafe.

Reserves: Liam Polwart, Sam Prattley, Jeff Thwaites, Jesse Parete, Mitch Karpik, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Marty McKenzie, Alex Nankivell.

Chiefs' Damian McKenzie is tackled by Hurricanes Ricky Riccitelli and Michael Fatialofa during the Hurricanes vs Chiefs Super Rugby match at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Friday the 13th of March 2018. Copyright Photo by Marty Melville / www.Photosport.nz
Chiefs' Damian McKenzie is tackled by Hurricanes Ricky Riccitelli and Michael Fatialofa during a Super Rugby. Source: Photosport


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Dane Coles prepares for long-awaited return to action - ‘He'll bring some fire and niggle off the bench’

It's been almost a year since he was last seen on the rugby field, but Dane Coles is finally set to make his long-awaited return from injury.

The 56-time capped All Black hooker hasn't played since last November, but will come off the bench in Wellington's crucial Mitre 10 Cup clash against Taranaki tomorrow night.

The plan is for him to have 20 minutes off the bench in the final round robin game of the season.

It's been close to a year since Coles injured his knee against France.

"Having played with him for a few years, it's really encouraging and I'm really pumped to have him back in the team," said fellow front row forward Jeff Toomaga-Allen.

"And I know he'll bring some fire and niggle off the bench." 

The All Blacks hooker will turn out for Wellington tomorrow, having not played since last November. Source: 1 NEWS


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Watch: All Blacks prop Nepo Laulala shows off scars from broken arm as he prepares for rugby return

After nearly seven months on the sidelines, All Blacks prop Nepo Laulala is firming for his return to action, named on the bench for Counties' Mitre 10 Cup season finale against Canterbury on Saturday.

Having cemented his spot in the All Blacks' front row towards the end of 2017, Laulala's season was derailed just two weeks into his 2018 campaign, suffering a broken arm playing for the Chiefs. 

However, after a long road to recovery, Laulala is just one of three All Blacks front rowers to make their returns this weekend, with the Counties prop having seen the silver lining in his time away from rugby.

"It feels like an eternity," he began.

"I'm just really grateful for the time I got with my family - especially my wife. We're expecting our first child, (I'm) just trying to stay on the positive side of it all."

This isn't Laulala's first brush with serious injury, snapping three ligaments in 2015, ruled out for a year afterwards and fearing he'd never play again.

The burly front rower has used his experience though, helping him to come back stronger for a second time.

"I've been through some pretty intense trainings lately."

"This is my first full week with the boys. I'm going for whatever minutes I get, even if I get five minutes, I'll just be grateful to get back on the field, and just get an opportunity again."

Laulala will make his Counties debut, should he come off the bench.

After injury at the start of Super Rugby, Laulala will play for Counties this week. Source: 1 NEWS


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Beauden Barrett 'still the number one' first-five over Richie Mo'unga, says Dan Carter

All Blacks great Dan Carter has thrown his support firmly behind Beauden Barrett as the first-choice in the number 10 jersey heading into next year's World Cup, following Richie Mo'unga's heroics against South Africa last weekend.

Coming off the bench in the second half in Pretoria, Mo'unga proved to be the All Blacks' saviour, slotting a conversion after the final whistle to steal the win after his side had been 30-13 down to the resurgent Springboks.

With Barrett having moved to fullback to accommodate Mo'unga's inclusion, debate has begun to arise as to whether or not the twice reigning World Player of the Year stay in the number 15 jersey, allowing for both stars to play at the same time though.

Speaking on Newstalk ZB this morning though, Carter said that the All Blacks need to persist with Barrett as the creative linchpin of the side.

Mo'unga is set to start in the No.10 jersey against Argentina in Nelson. Source: 1 NEWS

"He's still the number one 10 but to have the competition with Richie there, and when the time is right in certain games for Beaudie to go to the back and Richie come on and add another string to the backline," he said.

"It's the kind of depth and competition you want in a squad.

"For me Beaudie is still the leader in that All Blacks side and what he's achieved in the last three or four years has been incredible."

Carter also praised Mo'unga's emergence as a genuine world class player, having steered the Crusaders to back to back Super Rugby titles.

"I'm extremely proud of Richie and the way he's progressed over the last couple of years. I worked with him down at the Crusaders and he's got such a clear head. He doesn't let pressure get to him as we saw in the weekend.

"The fact he's putting Beaudie under a lot of pressure is great."
 

Barrett unselfishly let young Mo'unga take the game winning kick against South Africa. Source: 1 NEWS


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Wayne Barnes to referee All Blacks v Ireland, Jerome Garces takes charge of clash with England

All Blacks may not be happy with the refereeing appointments for this year's end of year northern hemisphere tour, with Jerome Garces and Wayne Barnes to officiate New Zealand's clashes against Europe's best.

Barnes, 39, has earned the ire of All Blacks fans in the past, famously missing a forward pass against France that led to New Zealand's elimination from the 2007 World Cup in Cardiff.

He will take charge of the All Blacks' clash against world number two Ireland in Dublin on November 18 NZT.

Meanwhile, French referee Garces, 44, who showed Sonny Bill Williams a straight red card in last year's second Test against the British and Irish Lions, will officiate the much anticipated Test between the All Blacks and England at Twickenham on November 11.

The All Blacks' end-of-year tour begins on November 3 against Japan in Tokyo.

Referee Wayne Barnes.
2nd Bledisloe Cup Test of the 2018 Investec Rugby Championship.
New Zealand All Blacks v Australia (Wallabies) at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand on 25 August 2018.
Copyright photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz
Rugby referee Wayne Barnes. Source: Photosport


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