March 29, 2024

Family at the centre of Chiefs Manawa game against the Blues

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The Sky Super Rugby Aupiki table-topping teams of Chiefs Manawa and the Blues will face off at FMG Stadium Waikato this Easter Saturday. The home side will celebrate the correlated holiday with their young family members joining them as they take the field for whānau round.

As multiple players celebrate milestones this weekend, the family support will be extra special for the Chiefs Manawa players.

Netballer turned rugby player Grace Kukutai will earn her first start at lock and rookie Kiriana Nolan will get her first start at No.10. Meanwhile off the bench Waikato’s Ashlee Gaby-Sutherland is set to make her debut, Te Urupounamu McGarvey will get her first run for the season and Chelsea Semple will play her 100th first-class match.

Chiefs Manawa head coach Crystal Kaua said: “Our last game against the Blues was a battle; they are physical, expressive and play fast.

“For this round, we see the debut of Ashlee off the bench and an exciting new locking combo of Grace and Chyna who will bring speed and energy to the game. It is also great to give Kiriana her first start. She is brave, a great defender and instinctive in how she plays so will be an asset against the Blues.

“This season we have been focused on looking inward and how we can be the best team we can be. We really want to put together a full performance.”

The Black Ferns front row trio of Kate Henwood, Luka Connor and Tanya Kalounivale starts this week, with impact from Bitila Tawake, Krystal Murray, Seina Saito and McGarvey.

Chyna Hohepa starts at lock alongside Kukutai with the forward pack completed by loose forwards Mia Anderson, captain Kennedy Simon and Victoria Edmonds.

Ariana Bayler starts at halfback, with Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu to support off the bench.

Grace Steinmetz and Azalleyah Maaka will command the midfield, with Ruby Tui, Mererangi Paul and Renee Holmes making for an electric back line. Semple and Merania Paraone will provide impact for the backs.

The match will kick off at 2.05pm. Child tickets are free, fans can secure their seat now at

Chiefs Manawa team to face the Blues:
1. Kate Henwood
2. Luka Connor
3. Tanya Kalounivale
4. Grace Kukutai
5. Chyna Hohepa
6. Mia Anderson
7. Kennedy Simon
8. Victoria Edmonds
9. Ariana Bayler
10. Kiriana Nolan
11. Ruby Tui
12. Grace Steinmetz
13. Azalleyah Maaka
14. Mererangi Paul
15. Renee Holmes

16. Bitila Tawake
17. Krystal Murray
18. Te Urupounamu McGarvey
19. Seina Saito
20. Ashlee Gaby-Sutherland*
21. Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu
22. Chelsea Semple
23. Merania Paraone

*potential debut

Unavailable for selection: Hazel Tubic, Chelsea Bremner, Charmaine Smith.

All media enquiries to [email protected]

Family at the centre of Chiefs Manawa game against the Blues