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Donald picked ahead of Cruden for Chiefs

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 29/06/2016
Stephen Donald led the Chiefs against Wales. © Phil Walter/Getty Images Stephen Donald led the Chiefs against Wales.

Two weeks after turning back the clock against Wales, former All Black Stephen Donald will start against the Crusaders in their vital Super Rugby match against the Crusaders.

Donald has been preferred over Aaron Cruden at first five-eighth for Friday's game in Fiji between the two leading teams in Super Rugby's New Zealand conference.

All Blacks No.10 Cruden suffered a neck injury in the second Test win over Wales in Wellington which ruled him out of last Saturday's third Test in Dunedin.

Cruden is on the reserves bench in Suva, handing a first Super Rugby start of the season for Donald.

Assistant coach Neil Barnes says Cruden was passed fit but Donald is preferred because of his performance against Wales and time spent in the Chiefs camp.

"We have put three weeks' hard work into this game and Stephen has been driving it at training for the whole time," Barnes said.

"Going on his form which was pretty good, we thought we would give him an opportunity to run the game for us and obviously Aaron will come out at some stage."

Donald, who played a key late role in New Zealand's 2011 World Cup win, made two bench appearances this season before unleashing a brilliant attacking display in the 40-7 thumping against Wales on June 14.

The 32-year-old's introduction is one of three starting changes from the side that lost 45-25 to the Waratahs in their last competition game on May 27.

The others are in the front row, where Hika Elliot pushes All Blacks hooker Nathan Harris to the bench and prop Kane Hames replaces the injured Mitchell Graham.

It will be a special occasion for Elliot, who makes his 100th Chiefs appearance.

The exciting Damian McKenzie is retained at fullback, having spent a month in the All Blacks camp but failing to win selection for a first cap.

Brad Weber is retained as the starting halfback, keeping All Blacks squad member Tawera Kerr-Barlow on the bench.

Weber is one of eight starting players who were also in the XV who started against Wales.

Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Toni Pulu, Seta Tamanivalu, Anton Lienert-Brown, James Lowe, Stephen Donald, Brad Weber, Tom Sanders, Sam Cane (capt), Taleni Seu, Brodie Retallick, Dominic Bird, Hiroshi Yamashita, Hika Elliot, Kane Hames. Reserves: Nathan Harris, Siegfried Fisiihoi, Atu Moli, Mitchell Brown, Lachlan Boshier, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Sam McNicol.

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