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Leitch dropped for Chiefs lapses

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/05/2017
Michael Leitch of Chiefs © Sean Middleton/Getty Images Michael Leitch of Chiefs

The Chiefs have dropped loose forward Michael Leitch for what they say was poor decision-making in their decisive Super Rugby loss to the Crusaders in Suva.

The Japanese captain's axing has given veteran Liam Messam another chance at No.8 for Friday's northern derby against the Blues at Eden Park.

Chiefs assistant coach Neil Barnes says Mitchell Brown is retained at blindside flanker to reward his form.

"Michael had a couple of bad misreads on defence last week," Barnes said.

"Liam's been putting a lot of pressure on to get a start and he's been training really well so it's a reward for him for what he's doing at practice.

"When you look at Mitch's workrate figures, he's right up there with (openside flanker) Sam Cane. It's one of those cases where you give a young guy an opportunity and he takes it with both hands."

Barnes says their injury list has shrunk among the forwards, making every position competitive.

The news isn't so bright in the backs, where midfielders Charlie Ngatai, Stephen Donald and Johnny McNicol are unavailable because of concussion.

It hands Johnny Faauli an opportunity to play his first game since April 1 when he was suspended for a dangerous tackle against the Bulls.

The Taranaki player gets the nod at second five-eighth with Tim Nanai-Williams preferred on the wing.

"Tim was pretty good on the wing last week and that gives him a license to roam," Barnes said.

The Chiefs are third in the New Zealand conference, 11 points behind the unbeaten Crusaders although they have played one less game.

Barnes says a Blues team whose season is hanging by a thread will be a threat but his team are determined to bounce back after lodging their second loss of the campaign.

"There's no lack of motivation in our camp as we set our own standards. So you won't see any complacency."

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