Leonard back for Chiefs
March 6, 2008
Halfback Brendon Leonard returns from injury for the Chiefs in a much-changed line-up for the Super 14 rugby match against the Cheetahs in Hamilton on Saturday night.
Coach Ian Foster has made seven changes in personnel to his starting 15, and has given fullback Mils Muliaina the captaincy in place of the unavailable Jono Gibbes.
Foster said the choice of Muliaina, who reverts to his preferred position of fullback after operating at centre in last weekend's defeat to the Hurricanes, came after discussions with the squad's leadership group.
While hooker Tom Willis has done a fine job as skipper in the past, it was felt that Muliaina was in a good position to lead this side.
"Mils is a quality, experienced footballer and has a good feel of where the team is at," Foster said.
"The extra responsibility that comes with being captain is a new challenge for him in his rugby career."
Leonard, 22, has recovered from a haematoma to his thigh suffered two weeks ago in the Chiefs' sole win of the season so far, against the New South Wales Waratahs.
Among other changes are the selection of openside Tom Harding and Faifili Levave as the flankers ahead of Tanerau Latimer and Liam Messam, who are on the bench.
In the tight five, lock Toby Lynn and tighthead prop Ben May get starting berths for the first time this season.
Lynn replaces Gibbes, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury, while May comes in for Ben Castle, who drops to the reserves.
Elsewhere, second five-eighth Callum Bruce is restored to the starting 15 and Sosene Anesi will start on the right wing.
Apart from Gibbes, other players not considered because of injury were Richard Kahui (ankle), Aled de Malmanche (groin), Kristian Ormsby (shoulder) and Jamie Nutbrown (knee).
Ormsby will need surgery and is out for the rest of the season.
Mils Muliaina (captain), Sosene Anesi, Dwayne Sweeney, Callum Bruce, Sitiveni Sitivatu, Stephen Donald, Brendon Leonard, Sione Lauaki, Tom Harding, Faifili Levave, Kevin O'Neill, Toby Lynn, Ben May, Tom Willis, Simms Davison. Reserves: Vern Kamo, Ben Castle, Hayden Hopgood, Liam Messam, Tanerau Latimer, David Bason, Lelia Masaga.