Chiefs flanker Luke Jacobson will return to action on Saturday after being named in his team’s starting XV to face the Brumbies in Hamilton.
The All Black has been cleared of the concussion issues that forced him to withdraw from last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, and will start on the blindside flank.
His inclusion is one of numerous changes made by Chiefs head coach Warren Gatland.
An unchanged front-row will be joined by a new locking duo of Michael Allardice and Mitchell Brown. Jacobson is joined in the back-row by captain Sam Cane at seven and the powerful Pita Gus Sowakula returning to start at number eight to complete an experienced pack.
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi will pair with Aaron Cruden in the halves, shifting Cruden’s understudy Kaleb Trask to the bench. Alex Nankivell will remain at inside centre combining with All Black midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown returning in the number thirteen jersey, shifting Quinn Tupaea to the bench in jersey 23.
The back three will feature the welcomed return of speedster Sam McNicol on the left wing and in-form wing Sean Wainui on the right, with dynamic All Black full-back Damian McKenzie completing an elusive back three.
In the reserves, experienced front-row cover in hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho, props Reuben O’Neill and Ross Geldenhuys will be joined by lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi and flanker Mitchell Karpik. Taranaki scrum-half Lisati Milo-Harris will look to come off the bench for his Super Rugby debut.
“It was great to collect another win on the road and allow several of our players to run out in the Gallagher Chiefs jersey for the first time this season,” he said.
“This week again we have a privilege to rotate a couple of players and provide the opportunity for several others to return for the Gallagher Chiefs.
“It will be great to have the likes of Luke Jacobson and Sam McNicol take the field for the first time this season. They are both talented individuals and have been training hard, so will be excited for the run.
“We have another tough battle ahead of us on Saturday. The Brumbies are leading the Australian Conference and will be on the hunt for redemption following a close loss to the Highlanders last weekend.
“We know it will be an exciting and entertaining game for our fans to watch and it’s one the team are looking forward to.”
Brumbies head coach Dan McKellar has made three changes to his starting side ahead of their match against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.
Inside centre Irae Simone has overcome sickness to take his place in the team, once again partnering Tevita Kuridrani in the midfield.
Last week’s hat-trick scorer Folau Fainga’a has been replaced at hooker after suffering a toe injury, with Connal McInerney earning his first start of the season.
Andy Muirhead is named on the wing for the first time in 2020 with Toni Pulu set to see his first minutes of the year against his former club after being named on the replacements bench.
The rest of the backline remains unchanged with Joe Powell and Noah Lolesio set to continue to build on their combination in the halves.
Australian U20s representative Lachlan Lonergan is in line for a potential Super Rugby debut from the bench, named alongside older brother Ryan as a replacement.
Full-back Tom Banks is set to bring up his 50th Super Rugby cap this weekend.
“Connal has been performing really well for us as a finisher so it’s a good reward for him to get his first start of the season.
“It also means we get to see Lachlan make his Super Rugby debut which is a special moment for him and his family, especially alongside his brother.
“We know the Chiefs are playing well and we respect them as the side but we’ve going over there full of confidence and are looking to come away with the win.”
THE CHIEFS HAVE PLAYED THE BRUMBIES 26 TIMES IN SUPER RUGBY SINCE 1996; THE CHIEFS HAVE WON 11 MATCHES, LOST 14 TIMES AND DRAWN ONCE.
The Chiefs 11 wins give them a record of winning 42% of their matches against the Brumbies regardless of venue.
This weekend’s match will be played in Hamilton where the teams have met eight times.
In those eight matches, the Chiefs have won five games and lost three. It gives the New Zealanders a record of winning 63% of their matches against the Aussies at home.
Average score between the two sides in Hamilton: Chiefs 21 Brumbies 21.
The hosts have won the last four matches against the Brumbies in Hamilton; the visitors have not won in the city since 2007.
Average score: Chiefs 24 Brumbies 29
Last five results
Sat, 23 Feb 2019 Chiefs 17-54 Brumbies @Canberra
Sat, 07 Jul 2018 Chiefs 24-19 Brumbies @Hamilton
Sat, 15 Jul 2017 Chiefs 28-10 Brumbies @Waikato
Sat, 02 Apr 2016 Chiefs 48-23 Brumbies @Canberra
Fri, 20 Feb 2015 Chiefs 19-17 Brumbies @New Plymouth
Chiefs overall record against the Brumbies
Played 26, Wins 11, Losses 14, Draws 1
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Sam McNicol, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Michael Allardice, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Bradley Slater, 1 Aidan Ross
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Reuben O’Neill, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Lisati Milo-Harris, 22 Kaleb Trask, 23 Quinn Tupaea
15 Tom Banks, 14 Solomone Kata, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Andy Muirhead, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Will Miller, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Murray Douglas, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (c), 2 Connal McInerney, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Bayley Kuenzle, 23 Toni Pulu
Match Officials and details
Date: Saturday 22 February
Venue: FMG Stadium, Waikato
Kick-Off local: 19:05
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 1: Mike Fraser Assistant Ref 2: Dan Waenga
TMO: Glenn Newman