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Cane to add quality, leadership to Chiefs

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 8/03/2017

Chiefs assistant coach Neil Barnes says he's rapt to have star openside Sam Cane back ahead of their biggest 2017 Super Rugby game.

Cane, 25, will start against the Hurricanes in Hamilton on Friday night after missing their first two matches with an ankle injury sustained on Test duty.

Barnes told reporters on Wednesday that the 40-cap All Black had been wrapped in cotton wool so far, but would now be unleashed on the breakdown.

His quality and leadership would help the side overcome last year's champions, who have begun 2017 with thumping wins over the Sunwolves and Rebels.

Cane's appearance also takes on added significance by the presence of Hurricanes counterpart Ardie Savea, his main rival for the Test openside role.

The pair, along with the Crusaders' Matt Todd, are vying for the black No.7 jumper in this year's British and Irish Lions series.

"We've tried to be careful with the situation to make sure he was 100 per cent before he heads out as he's a competitive man," Barnes said.

"He's sat on the bench for two weeks now, training the house down, so he's pretty pumped to get a chance this week."

Mitchell Brown also gets his chance to impress from the first minute after being surprisingly preferred to Liam Messam at blindside.

Club veteran Messam has been rested for the match, while Lachlan Boshier gets the nod over Mitch Karpik as cover on the other side of the scrum.

"Sometimes, when you bring in a fresh person like we did with Boshier last week, you suddenly find these boys stand up," Barnes said.

"That just adds to the depth in your squad.

"All the boys in our team know (Brown) is a no-nonsense type of player who's uncomplicated and just gets on and does the job."

There are also three changes to the backline, with Anton Lienert-Brown shifting to second-five and Tim Nanai-Williams to centre.

Toni Pulu has been injected onto the right edge, with the in-form James Lowe on the left flank for his first game since announcing his departure to Leinster.

Veteran Stephen Donald has overcome a head knock sustained during a stint in Japanese rugby to start on the pine, while new rake Sabastian Siataga has been named among the reserves.

The match will be the first meeting between the two sides since July's semi-final in Wellington, won by a Beauden Barrett-inspired Hurricanes 25-9.

CHIEFS: Damian McKenzie, Toni Pulu, Tim Nanai-Williams, Anton Lienert-Brown, James Lowe, Aaron Cruden (co-Capt.), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Michael Leitch, Sam Cane (co-Capt.), Mitchell Brown, Brodie Retallick, Dominic Bird, Nepo Laulala, Hika Elliot, Kane Hames. RESERVES: Sebastian Siataga, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Atu Moli, Taleni Seu, Lachlan Boshier, Jonathan Taumateine, Stephen Donald, Shaun Stevenson.

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