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The Gallagher Chiefs have stormed back to the top of the New Zealand Conference, reclaiming first place from the BNZ Crusaders who they beat 23-13 in an exhilarating match last Friday in Fiji.

The win puts the Gallagher Chiefs firmly in control of their own destiny as they enter the final two rounds of the regular season, beginning this Friday with a challenging contest against the Reds in Brisbane.

Under the 2016 Investec Super Rugby competition format, the New Zealand team who finishes first in their Conference (comprised of the Gallagher Chiefs, BNZ Crusaders, Hurricanes, Pulse Energy Highlanders and Blues) will secure the home advantage for the quarterfinals. With the New Zealand Conference so tightly contested, winning the final two games of the regular season is the only way for the Gallagher Chiefs to guarantee a playoff game at home, without having to rely on the results of their kiwi counterparts.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has met this challenge by naming a dynamic team to take on the Reds this Friday. In the forwards, Kane Hames, Nathan Harris and Atu Moli form a powerful front row, with Dominic Bird and Taleni Seu partnering at lock. All Black Sam Cane will lead the pack at number 8, he’s joined in the loose forwards by workhorse Tom Sanders and exciting openside Lachlan Boshier.

There’s a reshuffle in the backline with Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Cruden returning to the starting fifteen to start at nine and 10 respectively. The powerful combination of Anton Lienert-Brown and Seta Tamanivalu team up again in the midfield while James Lowe and Toni Pulu retain their places on the wings. Damian McKenzie will start at fullback for his 14th consecutive Super Rugby game this season.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Queensland Reds is:

1. Kane Hames (5)
2. Nathan Harris (19)
3. Atu Moli (7)
4. Dominic Bird (7)
5. Taleni Seu (14)
6. Tom Sanders (11)
7. Lachlan Boshier (4)
8. Sam Cane (78) co-captain
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (63)
10. Aaron Cruden (69) co-captain
11. James Lowe (33)
12. Anton Lienert-Brown (20)
13. Seta Tamanivalu (19)
14. Toni Pulu (9)
15. Damian McKenzie (29)
RESERVES:

16. Hika Elliot (100)
17. Siegfried Fisi’ihoi (7)
18. Siate Tokolahi (27)
19. Mitchell Brown (2)
20. Liam Messam (144)
21. Brad Weber (38)
22. Andrew Horrell (54)
23. Sam McNicol (8)

( ) = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets


Not considered for selection: Nepo Laulala, Mitchell Karpik, Pauliasi Manu, Sam Henwood, Johan Bardoul, Glen Fisiiahi, Maama Vaipulu, Michael Allardice, Mitchell Graham, Michael Leitch, Chase Tiatia, Charlie Ngatai, Brodie Retallick, Augustine Pulu (All Blacks Sevens).

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