The Chiefs host the Blues on Saturday 20 June, 09h05 (SA Time) at the FMG Stadium Waikato. The Blues will be arriving in Hamilton full of confidence after a good start against the Hurricanes a week ago in their first-round clash (30-20) at Eden Park.
One of the features of this match will be the clash between the 10/15 combos in each team. For the Blues, Otere Black and Beauden Barrett worked beautifully in tandem last week. This week they come up against an all-star combination in the form of Aaron Cruden and Damian McKenzie. This battle could be the decider on the day.
With Blake Gibson and Tom Robinson out through injury, Head Coach Leon MacDonald has called up All Blacks Dalton Papalii and Akira Ioane to the starting line-up. When adding in barn-storming No.8 Hoskins Sotutu, the Blues boast a potent loose forward trio with the ability to bust the game open from anywhere on the field.
Coach Leon MacDonald said, “We know that last week was a good start but that we will need to get better if we want a positive result against the Chiefs.”
“The players who took the field will be better for that experience, especially understanding the importance of discipline at the breakdown and getting back into competition after so long-off.
“We know that depth will be really important in this competition and we are fortunate to have the likes of Dalton and Akira to come into the starting line-up. Parts of our play were good last week but we must lift to another level against what we know is a very good and very physical Chiefs side as well as a healthy rivalry with our neighbours.”
Blues: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Sam Nock; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu(capt), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman. Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tony Lamborn, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Matt Duffie.
The Gallagher Chiefs will return home to FMG Stadium Waikato to take on the Blues in their first home game. Chiefs Head Coach Warren Gatland has made several changes to the team that lost 27-28 to the Highlanders in round one of the Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa Series.
Lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi will move from the bench into the starting fifteen in jersey number five to combine with last week’s debutant Tupou Vaa’i, in the only changes to the Gallagher Chiefs forward pack.
All Blacks scrumhalf Brad Weber will again captain the side in the absence of All Blacks Captain Sam Cane. Weber will combine with experienced flyhalf Aaron Cruden at ten in the only change from last week’s starting backline, with Bay of Plenty’s Kaleb Trask providing cover on the bench.
The Chiefs' bench will be completed with prop Reuben O’Neill, loose forward veteran Adam Thomson, rookie Lisati Milo-Harris and Solomon Alaimalo.
Chiefs coach Warren Gatland said “Last week against the Highlanders we weren’t clinical enough and they capitalised on those opportunities we gave them. This week we need to be sharper and deliver a more dominant performance."
“The Blues have some great playmakers and will be a dangerous team. They performed well last week against the Hurricanes and will be hoping to back it up again. The guys are excited to run out to the field in front of what is expected to be a near-capacity crowd. It is now up to us to deliver for them and show our thanks for their support,” said Gatland.
“The guys are excited to run out to the field in front of what is expected to be a near-capacity crowd. It is now up to us to deliver for them and show our thanks for their support,” said Gatland.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie 14 Shaun Stevenson 13 Quinn Tupaea 12 Anton Lienert-Brown 11 Sean Wainui 10 Aaron Cruden 9 Brad Weber (capt) 8 Pita Gus Sowakula 7 Lachlan Boshier 6 Luke Jacobson 5 Naitoa Ah Kuoi 4 Tupou Vaa’I 3 Nepo Laulala 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho 1 Aidan Ross. Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Reuben O’Neill, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Dylan Nel, 21 Lisati Milo-Harris, 22 Kaleb Trask, 23 Solomon Alaimalo.
The Chiefs have lost only one of their last 17 Super Rugby games against the Blues (W15, D1) and earned a 37-29 win when they met in the opening round of the 2020 Super Rugby season.
The Chiefs have won their last eight home games on the bounce against the Blues; however, five of those eight wins have been by a margin of seven points or fewer.
The Chiefs have lost their last two home games in Super Rugby; the last time they lost more home games in succession was a four-game stretch across the 2001 and 2002 campaigns.
The Chiefs have trailed at half-time in each of their last eight Super Rugby games against New Zealand opposition; although, they have picked up three wins and a draw in that time (L4).
The Blues have won their last four away games in Super Rugby; a fifth consecutive win on the road would set a new record for the Auckland club.
The Blues have won their last five Super Rugby games on the bounce; the last time they won more was a seven-game streak in 2011.
The Chiefs have conceded the opening try of the game in two of their last three Super Rugby games hosting fellow New Zealand opponents; however, they have managed to bounce back and win twice in that span (L1).
The Blues won 10 turnovers in their opening round clash of Super Rugby Aotearoa, their most in a game since Round 16, 2018 (11 v Rebels); the Auckland side haven't won more than 10 turnovers in a game against the Chiefs since Round 8, 2015 (11).
Damian McKenzie (Chiefs) has been directly involved in nine tries in his last nine Super Rugby appearances (3 tries, 6 try assists) and has scored 104 points in that span.
Rieko Ioane (Blues) has scored three tries in his last three Super Rugby appearances against the Chiefs, including a brace in his most recent game against them.