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Cruden on the bench as Chiefs and Highlanders name a debutant each

Warren Gatland and Aaron Mauger have named their teams for the return of rugby union.

THE CHIEFS AND Highlanders have each handed out a starting debut for Saturday’s Super Rugby Aotearoa opener in Dunedin [KO 8.05am Irish time, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Action].

New Zealand U20 lock Tupou Vaa’i will start for Warren Gatland’s Chiefs, who have left the highly-experienced Aaron Cruden on the bench with Kaleb Trask picked in the number 10 shirt.

aaron-cruden Cruden is on the bench for the Chiefs. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Meanwhile, the Highlanders have named Sam Gilbert on the right wing for a surprise debut, while the exciting New Zealand 7s international Vilimoni Koroi is set for his first cap off the bench at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The first team namings for the return of professional rugby after a 90-day break due to Covid-19 have added to the excitement around Super Rugby Aotearoa kicking off this weekend, with combined ticket sales for the game in Dunedin and the Blues and Hurricanes’ clash in Auckland on Sunday already breaking the 50,000 mark. 

New Zealand has moved to ‘Alert Level 1,’ lifting all restrictions on mass gatherings including at sports stadiums.

Gatland’s Chiefs will be looking to continue their strong form from the opening rounds of the 2020 Super Rugby season and the former Wales boss has called on All Blacks like Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown, Brad Weber, the returning Luke Jacobson, and Nepo Laulala to help his team towards victory on Saturday.

Jackal specialist Lachlan Boshier will be important around the breakdown, while powerful midfielder Quinn Tupaea is another player to watch out for.

Aaron Mauger’s Highlanders have paired All Blacks scrum-half Aaron Smith with fellow international Josh Ioane in the halfbacks, the latter returning to the number 10 shirt after playing in midfield earlier this year.

The impressive Marino Mikaele Tu’u, Shannon Frizell, and Paripari Parkinson will look to bring power up front as the Dunedin-based side attempt to turn around the poor form that saw them win once in six games before Super Rugby was halted.

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15. Mitch Hunt
14. Sam Gilbert
13. Rob Thompson
12. Patelesio Tomkinson
11. Jona Nareki
10. Josh Ioane
9. Aaron Smith

1. Ayden Johnstone
2. Ash Dixon (captain)
3. Siate Tokolahi
4. Paripari Parkinson
5. Josh Dickson
6. Shannon Frizell
7. Dillon Hunt
8. Marino Mikaele Tu’u


16. Liam Coltman
17. Daniel Lienert-Brown
18. Jeff Thwaites
19. Manaaki Selby-Rickit
20. Teariki Ben-Nicholas
21. Kayne Hammington
22. Teihorangi Walden
23. Vilimoni Koroi


15. Damian McKenzie
14. Shaun Stevenson
13. Quinn Tupaea
12. Anton Lienert-Brown
11. Sean Wainui
10. Kaleb Trask
9. Brad Weber (captrain)

1. Aidan Ross
2. Samisoni Taukei’aho
3. Nepo Laulala
4. Mitchell Brown
5. Tupou Vaa’i
6. Luke Jacobson
7. Lachlan Boshier
8. Pita Gus Sowakula


16. Bradley Slater
17. Ryan Coxon
18. Ross Geldenhuys
19. Naitoa Ah Kuoi
20. Dylan Nel
21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
22. Aaron Cruden
23. Etene Nanai-Seturo.

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