Young Chiefs prepare for Super Rugby debut


Four youngsters are set to make their Super Rugby debuts for the Chiefs in Friday's campaign opener against the Highlanders in Dunedin.

Flanker Mitchell Karpik is joined by fellow 21-year-old livewire Taranaki inside centre Johnny Fa'auli in the run-on team, while 19-year-old hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho and 20-year-old halfback Jonathan Taumateine will make their impact from the bench.

All Blacks prop Nepo Laulala will also don the Chiefs jersey for the first time after diligently working his way back from a knee injury sustained in January 2016.

Coach Dave Rennie's squad is vastly experienced, with the starting side featuring 10 players with All Blacks experience.

Among those unavailable are Sam Cane, working his way back from an ankle injury, and Charlie Ngatai, who is recovering from concussion.

Mitchell Graham and Brad Weber are both out after suffering broken legs in last week's Brisbane Tens, while All Blacks hooker Nathan Harris is still recovering from knee surgery.

Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Toni Pulu, Anton Lienert-Brown, Johnny Fa'auli, James Lowe, Aaron Cruden, (captain), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Messam, Mitchell Karpik, Taleni Seu, Brodie Retallick, Dominic Bird, Nepo Laulala, Hika Elliot, Kane Hames.

Reserves: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Atu Moli, Mitchell Brown, Lachlan Boshier, Jonathan Taumateine, Tim Nanai-Williams, Shaun Stevenson.