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Cane at No.8 in overhauled Chiefs team

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 6/07/2016

Co-captain Sam Cane's shift to No.8 is the eye-catcher in a heavily shuffled Chiefs side to face the Reds in Brisbane.

The All Blacks openside flanker has rarely packed down at the back of the scrum but will do so on Friday after coach Dave Rennie unveiled five personnel changes to the starting team who beat the Crusaders 23-13 in Suva last week.

Axed Olympic sevens hopeful Liam Messam comes onto the reserves bench while there are several positional switches to the starting pack after Rennie chose to hand a week off to All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick.

The versatile Taleni Seu moves from flanker to lock, with Tom Sanders swapping the No.8 jersey for No.6. Cane's shift allows openside specialist Lachlan Boshier to make his first Super Rugby start.

All Blacks playmaker and Chiefs co-captain Aaron Cruden has fully recovered from a neck injury and will start ahead of Stephen Donald at first five-eighth while Test halfback reserve Tawera Kerr-Barlow is promoted in place of Brad Weber.

The other changes are in the front row, where prop Atu Moli and hooker Nathan Harris usurp Hiroshi Yamashita and Hika Elliot respectively.

Rennie says former captain Messam's return has handed his New Zealand conference-leading team a boost with two rounds remaining until the post-season.

"It's massive. Liam's got a lot of mana within this group and his presence over the last couple of days has been awesome," he said.

"He's come back in pretty good nick and is keen to contribute so we are rapt to have him."

The news is not so positive for second five-eighth Charlie Ngatai, whose ongoing concussion symptoms are set to sideline him for the remainder of the competition.

Rennie says it will take several weeks to get Ngatai match-fit again, even if he does fully shake off the symptoms soon.

Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Toni Pulu, Seta Tamanivalu, Anton Lienert Brown, James Lowe, Aaron Cruden (co-capt), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Sam Cane (co-capt), Lachlan Boshier, Tom Sanders, Taleni Seu, Dominic Bird, Atu Moli, Nathan Harris, Kane Hames. Reserves: Hika Elliot, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Siate Tokolahi, Mitchell Brown, Liam Messam, Brad Weber, Andrew Horrell, Sam McNicol.

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