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“I feel like a 10-year-old kid again, I’m just really excited to lace up my boots and play some rugby.” – these words from Mitchell Karpik shared ahead of his Investec Super Rugby debut this Friday, aptly encapsulates the mood in camp two days out from the Gallagher Chiefs 2017 campaign opener against the Pulse Energy Highlanders in Dunedin.

Karpik, 21, is one of four exciting young players in line to make their Investec Super Rugby debut for the Gallagher Chiefs this weekend. He’s joined in the starting lineup by 21-year-old Taranaki livewire Johnny Faauli who will start his first game at second five-eighth, while 19-year-old Waikato hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho and Counties Manukau halfback Jonathan Taumateine, 20, could earn their first caps off the bench. All Black prop Nepo Laulala will also don the Gallagher Chiefs jersey for the first time after diligently working his way back from a knee injury sustained in January 2016.

In addition to the four promising youngsters, Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has selected a vastly experienced and determined lineup to set the benchmark for the side’s 2017 campaign. The starting fifteen features ten players with All Blacks experience, interlaced with several gutsy high performers looking to make a statement come Friday.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Pulse Energy Highlanders at 7.35pm on Friday is:
1. Kane Hames (9)
2. Hika Elliot (104)
3. Nepo Laulala*
4. Dominic Bird (11)
5. Brodie Retallick (71)
6. Taleni Seu (18)
7. Mitchell Karpik**
8. Liam Messam (146)
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (67)
10. Aaron Cruden (captain) (73)
11. James Lowe (37)
12. Johnny Faauli**
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (24)
14. Toni Pulu (13)
15. Damian McKenzie (33)

RESERVES:

16. Samisoni Taukei’aho**
17. Siegfried Fisi’ihoi (11)
18. Atu Moli (11)
19. Mitchell Brown (3)
20. Lachlan Boshier (8)
21. Jonathan Taumateine**
22. Tim Nanai-Williams (77)
23. Shaun Stevenson (7)

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets
*denotes Gallagher Chiefs debut
**denotes Investec Super Rugby debut

Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Fin Hoeata, Nathan Harris, James Tucker, Glen Fisiiahi, Chase Tiatia, Michael Allardice, Charlie Ngatai, Sam McNicol, Liam Polwart, Sam Cane.

The Gallagher Chiefs take on the Blues next Friday the 3rd of March in their first home game of 2017. Tickets to this thrilling local derby are available now from ticketdirect.co.nz or 0800 4 CHIEFS.

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