Super Rugby
Chiefs not expecting miracles from Muliaina
February 19, 2014
The Barbarians' Mils Muliaina run through to score a try, England v Barbarians, Twickenham, England, May 27, 2012
Mils Muliaina will take the field on New Zealand soil for the first time since the 2011 World Cup © PA Photos

Chiefs assistant coach Wayne Smith is not expecting miracles from Mils Muliaina after the 100-Test All Black was named in the starting line-up to face the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday night.

Muliaina, 33, has only been back with the Chiefs squad for a couple of weeks after three seasons with Japanese side Docomo Red Hurricanes. But injuries to Gareth Anscombe (shoulder), Robbie Robinson (hip) and Tom Marshall (thumb) mean his return to Super Rugby has been fast-tracked.

"To get someone back like Mils who has achieved through and through and has huge experience with 100 Test matches has been pretty crucial for us going into this game," Smith said. "He's going to make a big difference I think to what is a pretty young back line."

Muliaina hasn't played in New Zealand since the 2011 World Cup and has been given a crash-course by Smith and Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie on what is required from him at fullback on Friday night.

"We're not expecting miracles from him. We just want him to do the job that he's done so well for so many years," Smith said. "If he does that hopefully we'll get off to a pretty good start."

Friday's night's opener at AMI Stadium will be a special occasion for young openside flanker Tevita Koloamatangi too. Injuries to Sam Cane and Tanerau Latimer mean the 25-year-old Tasman loose forward will be thrust into a Super Rugby debut against All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

But Smith has been impressed by Koloamatangi, particularly against the Blues in the final pre-season hit-out last week.

"We think he has got a lot of potential," the former All Blacks assistant coach said. "What we saw against the Blues last week was a lot of composure and ability to adapt to the situation he is in. He just took it in his stride.

"He had about 50 minutes marking Luke Braid and he went pretty well. Our expectations are high and we're pretty confident he will come up to it."

The two-time champions had a miserable trip to Christchurch last year losing 43-15 and it will be a scenario Robbie Fruean will not want repeated in what will be his first game against his former team-mates.

Fruean, who underwent heart surgery for a second time last year, has been hitting personal bests in fitness testing and Smith is hopeful the hard-running centre will make the hard work count in Christchurch.

"He's playing against a team that has been his family for a few years now. I would want to perform in that situation and I'm sure Robbie is no different. He'll be wanting to have a big one," Smith added.

Another notable starter for the Chiefs on Friday will be former Highlanders prop Jamie Mackintosh at loosehead, while Augustine Pulu gets the nod ahead of All Black Tawera Kerr-Barlow at halfback.

Chiefs: Mils Muliaina; Tim Nanai-Williams, Robbie Fruean, Charlie Ngatai, Asaeli Tikoirotuma; Aaron Cruden (captain), Augustine Pulu; Kane Thompson, Tevita Koloamatangi, Liam Messam; Brodie Retallick, Michael Fitzgerald; Ben Tameifuna, Rhys Marshall, Jamie Mackintosh. Replacements: Nathan Harris, Pauliasi Manu, Ben Afeaki, Matt Symons/Liam Squire, Nick Crosswell, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Andrew Horrell/Anton Lienert-Brown, James Lowe


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