All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick will make a welcome return for the Chiefs against the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The 2014 World Rugby Player of the Year has not played since hurting his left shoulder against the Force on 24 April (having missed five weeks earlier in the competition because of an injury to his other shoulder). Retallick's left rotator cuff hampered blood supply to the joint and slowed down his recovery time, but he has finally been declared fit for this round 17 clash.
The Chiefs have had a lock crisis this season with Retallick, Michael Fitzgerald (thigh), Matt Symons (concussion), Michael Allardice and Johan Bardoul (both knee) all being sidelined at some stage. Fitzgerald returned to action last weekend, which means the Chiefs will finally be able to field their first-choice second row again.
Retallick's return is a big boost for the Chiefs. He is an imposing force at the lineout and with ball in hand, and his mere presence will lift the pack.
While the Chiefs suffered a heavy 36-9 defeat to the Highlanders in Invercargill last weekend, they are fifth on the combined log and five log points against the 12th-placed Reds would keep their hopes of hosting a play-off qualifier alive.
The Chiefs also welcome back captain Liam Messam, who missed the Highlanders match because of a shoulder injury, with Mitchell Graham and Siate Tokolahi starting at loosehead and tighthead prop respectively.
Among the backs, Tim Nanai-Williams starts on the left wing with Andrew Horrell joining Charlie Ngatai in the midfield, while Bryce Heem moves to the right wing and Tom Marshall returns at fullback.
The Reds have stuck with the starting XV that claimed a confidence-boosting 32-10 win against the Force in Perth last weekend. Quade Cooper scored 22 points upon his return from injury and will need to produce a similar performance if the Reds are to challenge the Chiefs.
Queensland have made two changes to their bench, with hooker Saia Fainga’a set to return from a rib injury and New Zealand-born Japanese Test loose forward Hendrik Tui, who has recovered from a broken leg suffered while playing in Japan, in line to make his Vodacom Super Rugby debut.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Reds 10, Chiefs 8
In Brisbane: Reds 5, Chiefs 3
STATS AND FACTS
– The Reds have won four straight against the Chiefs, this run being preceded by four straight losses against the men from Hamilton.
– Three of those Reds victories have been by more than a converted try.
– The Queenslanders have won three of their last six matches, it took them twice as long (12 games) to piece together their three previous wins.
– The Chiefs’ current run of three defeats in four games marks their worst form of the season.
– The Reds have conceded twice as many last-quarter tries (14) than the Chiefs (7).
– Super Rugby fixtures between these sides in Queensland have averaged an aggregate score of 56 points; the most recent two games in Brisbane saw an average of 73.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Reds||James O'Connor (44)||Samu Kerevi, Lachie Turner (6)||James O'Connor (624)||Adam Thomson (137)|
|Chiefs||Aaron Cruden (93)||Charlie Ngatai, James Lowe (5)||James Lowe (745)||Sam Cane (154)|
Reds – 15 James O’Connor, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Karmichael Hunt, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs (one to be omitted): 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Pettowa Paraka, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ed O’Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Hendrik Tui, 22 Nick Frisby, 23 Ben Tapuai, 24 Jake McIntyre.
Chiefs – 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 Tim Nanai-Williams, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Subs: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Jarrod Firth, 19 Matt Symons, 20 Maama Vaipulu, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Andrew Lees (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images