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The Gallagher Chiefs are changing up their bootlaces and their lineup ahead of the team’s first trans-Tasman contest for 2017 against the Melbourne Rebels on Friday. To celebrate the inclusive, uniting and inspiring power of rugby, the Gallagher Chiefs will wear a fluorescent lace in one boot. The other lace has been exchanged with our smallest fans and neighbours from a Hamilton Day Care. These vocal little fans cheer on the team throughout training from their day care each week and are the perfect example of how #rugbyisforeveryone.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has made extensive changes for the Round 4 game at AAMI Park in Melbourne. In the forwards, Bay of Plenty hooker Sabastian Siataga earns his first start of his Investec Super Rugby career after impressing in his debut off the bench in the Gallagher Chiefs 26-18 win over the Hurricanes last Friday. Siataga will pack down alongside Kane Hames and Nepo Laulala, who start in jerseys 1 and 3 respectively for the fourth consecutive week.

The second row remains unchanged from the opening three rounds, with Dominic Bird and Brodie Retallick set to continue their impressive locking partnership again this Friday. Co-captain Sam Cane will don the number 7 jersey in his second appearance of the season. He is joined by Tom Sanders and veteran Liam Messam who return to the 23 this week to complete the loose forward trio.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow makes his fourth consecutive start of the season at halfback. There are a number of exciting changes in the backline beginning with Damian McKenzie who will start at first five-eighth. Stephen Donald will start in jersey 12, with Anton Lienert-Brown shifting out this week to start at centre.  21-year-old Northland outside back Solomon Alaimalo will make his Investec Super Rugby debut on the left wing, with Toni Pulu retaining the number 14 jersey. The evasive Shaun Stevenson should prove a handful at fullback in his first start of the 2017 season.

In the reserves, Hika Elliot, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi and Atu Moli provide experienced front row cover, with the hard-working pair of Mitchell Brown and Mitchell Karpik looking to add impact off the bench. Finlay Christie gets another opportunity this week following his debut game against the Hurricanes last Friday. He is joined on the bench by Co-captain Aaron Cruden and midfielder Johnny Faauli.

  The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Melbourne Rebels at 9.45pm NZT on Friday is:

  1. Kane Hames (12)
  2. Sabastian Siataga (1)
  3. Nepo Laulala (3)
  4. Dominic Bird (14)
  5. Brodie Retallick (74)
  6. Tom Sanders (16)
  7. Sam Cane (co-captain) (83)
  8. Liam Messam (148)
  9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (70)
  10. Damian McKenzie (36)
  11. Solomon Alaimalo**
  12. Stephen Donald (92)
  13. Anton Lienert-Brown (27)
  14. Toni Pulu (16)
  15. Shaun Stevenson (10)

RESERVES

16. Hika Elliot (107)

17.Siegfried Fisi’ihoi (14)

18. Atu Moli (14)

19. Mitchell Brown (5)

20.Mitchell Karpik (1)

21.Finlay Christie (1)

22.Aaron Cruden (co-captain) (76)

23.Johnny Faauli (2)

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets

**denotes Investec Super Rugby debut

 

Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Nathan Harris, James Tucker, Glen Fisiiahi, Chase Tiatia, Michael Allardice, Charlie Ngatai, Sam McNicol, Tim Nanai-Williams, James Lowe, Michael Leitch and Liam Polwart.

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