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Concussion tests Chiefs midfield depth

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 22/05/2017

Dave Rennie, head coach of the Chiefs, looks on during warm up © Dianne Manson/Getty Images/Getty Images Dave Rennie, head coach of the Chiefs, looks on during warm up Concussion will almost certainly sideline three Chiefs midfield backs from Friday's Super Rugby clash against the Blues.

Coach Dave Rennie was considering his options after confirming one-Test All Black Charlie Ngatai will miss the match at Eden Park, having also failed to travel to Fiji for the table-topping loss to the Crusaders.

Sam McNicol and Stephen Donald both left the field during the 31-24 loss in Suva and while both have "bounced back well", Rennie says they are unlikely to be considered this week.

Ngatai is the biggest concern, the one-Test All Black having returned from a year out of the game to start against the Reds two weeks ago.

He felt headaches at a subsequent training session and is back playing a waiting game.

"Charlie's had about four days symptom-free. But we're unlikely to use him this week. We want to be really sure," Rennie said.

"In the end we'll take advice from the medics around that.

"We just want to be really cautious around it. So we're not going to rush him back in."

McNicol sat out last year's entire NPC season at Hawke's Bay because of concussion, making his latest knock a concern.

Former All Black first five-eighth Donald, who is one game short of raising a century of matches for the Chiefs, is an outside chance of selection.

Bay of Plenty back Alex Nankivell, who has made two bench appearances this year, returns to the squad as cover.

There are two other candidates to start alongside Anton Lienert-Brown in the midfield.

Versatile Samoan international Tim Nanai-Williams returned on the wing against the Crusaders after 10 weeks recovering from a shoulder problem. Johnny Fa'auli hasn't played since sitting out a four-week suspension for foul play.

Rennie said winger Toni Pulu will probably be fit after a hamstring sidelined him from the Suva loss, their second of the season.

Rennie says key defensive mistakes and some bad luck cost them dearly against the unbeaten Crusaders in a "game of inches" between the competition heavyweights.

He senses the Blues will be desperate after the 30-22 loss to the Stormers left their play-off hopes teetering.

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