Injuries force new backline

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2013

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The Chiefs will run out in Mangatainoka tomorrow with a very different backline, with injuries restricting choice for the team's final pre-season trial match.

A new recruit, first five-eighth Gareth Anscombe, looks set to start at fullback while wing/fullback Tim Nanai-Williams will have No 13 on his back when the Chiefs take on the Hurricanes six days out from their Super Rugby season-opener.

Halfback Brendon Leonard, still out for a few more weeks with a fractured cheekbone, centre Richard Kahui, fullback Robbie Robinson and utility back Andrew Horrell are all sidelined.

"The backs are picking themselves at the moment really - there are some pretty easy selections," head coach Dave Rennie said.

"We're chopping a few things around and will probably start Gareth Anscombe at 15 this week and Tim Nanai-Williams at 13, just having a look at those options and see how that pans out. That's the advantage of this time of year, that we can try things when, in the end, there is not a huge amount on it, but those guys could end up in those spots later in the year."

However, do not expect to get much of a steer from tomorrow's game, even though it is the last warmup match before the defending champions Chiefs hit the competition field against the Highlanders in Dunedin next Friday night.

Rennie said Counties Manukau newcomer Bundee Aki had made a sufficient impact as a substitute in last week's win over the Reds on Australia's Sunshine Coast to get a start at second five-eighth this week.

With Kahui (shoulder) and Horrell (foot) out with injury, and Charlie Ngatai unable to train all week because of an early knock against the Reds, that left little choice in midfield.

Rennie said he was hopeful Ngatai would be able to come off the bench.

Otherwise, wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma could move into centre again.

"With Lelia [Masaga] coming back, we've got a few more options out the back as well."

However, the injuries dictated that a shadow first XV could not be fielded.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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