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Ngatai back for Chiefs

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/05/2017

Test midfielder Charlie Ngatai will make his long-awaited return to Super Rugby on Saturday when his Chiefs outfit take on the Reds in New Plymouth.

The 26-year-old Ngatai will play his first game almost a year to the day since a head knock against the Highlanders left him with long-term concussion symptoms, placing his career at risk.

A one-cap All Black, the Taranaki ace was one of 2016's standout performers in midfield and likely would've played more Tests.

Instead, Ngatai has slowly worked his way back to full health and fitness, ticking off the final boxes with three club rugby appearances.

He'll line up at second-five for the encounter.

He's one of eight changes to the Chiefs' starting line-up, with Brodie Retallick and Michael Leitch recalled to action and Mitchell Brown switched to the blindside to make way for Sam Cane at No.7.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow is back at halfback after overcoming concussion and partners Aaron Cruden in the halves, while midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown slots in outside Ngatai at centre.

James Lowe and Toni Pulu are on the wings, in what will make for a dynamic outside back combination alongside Damien McKenzie.

On the bench, Test hooker Nathan Harris has been named for what could be his first Chiefs game in 10 months, having torn his ACL in an All Blacks training session last August.

CHIEFS: Damian McKenzie, Toni Pulu, Anton Lienert-Brown, Charlie Ngatai, 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: Nathan Harris, Atu Moli, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Taleni Seu, Liam Messam, Jonathan Taumateine, Sam McNicol, Shaun Stevenson.

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