Lions tour: Stephen Donald to captain Chiefs against British and Irish Lions video

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie and Stephen Donald, who was on Sunday named to captain the side against the British and Irish Lions.
HANNAH PETERS/GETTY IMAGES

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie and Stephen Donald, who was on Sunday named to captain the side against the British and Irish Lions.

Like he did so memorably last year in the win over Wales, veteran first five-eighth Stephen Donald will take on Chiefs captaincy duty once more, when they meet the British and Irish Lions in Hamilton on Tuesday night.

The country's folk hero following his 2011 World Cup-winning exploits, 'Beaver' was named the skipper when Dave Rennie's team was announced on Sunday.

The 33-year-old will take charge of a largely inexperienced unit, though one which features two fellow Chiefs centurions, with Hika Elliot and Liam Messam on the bench and backing up from the New Zealand Maori's 32-10 loss to the Lions in Rotorua on Saturday night, while Tim Nanai-Williams features after playing for Samoa against the All Blacks on Friday night.

Live: The Chiefs name their team to play the Lions in Hamilton.

Rennie indicated all of his players in the Maori squad were in contention to face the Lions for a second time in four days, bar Tawera Kerr-Barlow, who was linking back up with the All Blacks ahead of next weekend's first test at Eden Park.

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"I think they were all pretty keen to play," Rennie said. "Our thinking along that is a number of guys played big minutes last night [Saturday], and we've got other players who are fresh and keen and we've got confidence in."

Rennie opted to leave out Kane Hames (62 minutes), Charlie Ngatai (80) and James Lowe (80), while Damian McKenzie (67) was a late unavailability after leaving the park with a neck injury in Rotorua.

"He took a couple of knocks late in the game," Rennie said. "We did consider him backing up off the bench to back up Beaver, but we made a decision this morning [Sunday] to leave him out.

Elliot played just 10 minutes off the bench, but, interestingly, Messam was picked, despite having played the full 80. 

"One hundred and sixty games for us, he's pretty resilient," was Rennie's reasoning.

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The Maori players were linking up with the rest of the Chiefs squad on Sunday afternoon, and would have been able to offer a bit of first-hand insight into the Lions' style, along with  Aidan Ross, Lachlan Boshier and Luteru Laulala who featured in the tour opener for the Provincial Barbarians. But Rennie has indeed been schooling up and knows what to expect.

"We've looked at a lot of footage, we know Gats [Lions coach Warren Gatland] pretty well, so we're pretty clear on what they'll bring, and we'll have to really steel up," he said, noting the tourists' set piece was formidable against the Maori.

"I thought they were impressive last night [Saturday], and clearly the Maoris gave them more opportunities to go to that lineout drive by being penalised or kicking the ball to them. So we're mindful of that, we need to be really disciplined, our scrum's going to have to really steel up.

"We probably don't want to give away too many secrets about how we're going to play, but it's not a mystery - we like to use the ball, we try and play a high tempo, high-skilled game of footy, and the Lions have been excellent at choking teams from doing that. So we've got a few challenges ahead of us.

"But I'm really happy with the group of men we've assembled. We've got a good blend of experience and a few guys who are either going to make their debut or have one or two caps, so [it's] pretty exciting."

There will be two players set for debuts from the bench, in utility backs Laulala - who isn't in the Chiefs' official Super Rugby squad as such - and Chase Tiatia, who's in his second year with the franchise but has been dogged by injury. Rennie said it will be a chance for both sides to get a gauge on some of their backup cast.

"They've [the Lions] got a number of guys who will be keen to play a bit of test footy on this tour and maybe it's a chance to scrap for some spots on the bench. I'd imagine their test XV will be nailed and probably stay in Auckland, so I think they've got a lot to play for, and likewise have our guys, with a few guys that we've got missing they'll be keen to make a bit of a statement to us coaches to put a bit of pressure on with the business end of our competition."

Chiefs: Shaun Stevenson, Toni Pulu, Tim Nanai-Williams, Johnny Fa'auli, Solomon Alaimalo, Stephen Donald (c), Finlay Christie, Tom Sanders, Lachlan Boshier, Mitch Brown, Michael Allardice, Dominic Bird, Nepo Laulala, Liam Polwart, Siegfried Fisiihoi. Reserves: Hika Elliot, Aidan Ross, Atu Moli, Liam Messam, Mitch Karpik, Jonathan Taumateine, Luteru Laulala, Chase Tiatia.

 - Stuff

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