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Messam Skipper After Lauaki Ruled Out

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Auckland, Feb 12 NZPA - Flanker Liam Messam will fill the role of stand-in skipper when the Chiefs open their Super 14 rugby season against the Sharks in Durban on Sunday (NZ time).

Messam, who has been given the job before, steps in after No 8 Sione Lauaki was ruled out because of an abscess on his arm.

Coach Ian Foster said today that Lauaki's arm had to be drained yesterday and, while he was feeling better, he would not be ready to face the Sharks.

Lauaki was himself named as replacement skipper last month after fullback Mils Muliaina, who led the Chiefs to the final last year, was given the first three rounds off.

Messam will play on the blindside, with fellow All Black Tanerau Latimer at No 7 and Colin Bourke at the back of the scrum.

In the midfield, Foster has opted for the combination of Jackson Willison at second five-eighth with Richard Kahui at centre.

Foster said Callum Bruce, who strained a knee in the pre-season match against the Hurricanes last week, was progressing well.

However, the decision was made to give Bruce another week to recover fully given that other fit players were available.

Dwayne Sweeney will start on the right wing, with speedster Sitiveni Sivivatu on the other flank, while usual first five-eighth Mike Delany will cover for Muliaini's absence at fullback. The weather for the match at Absa Stadium is expected to be hot and humid.

"The team has enjoyed its week in Durban after getting over the travel and acclimatising to the conditions," Foster said.

"We understand some of the difficulties of the hot, humid conditions but are now just keen to get on to the field."

Chiefs: Mike Delany, Dwayne Sweeney, Richard Kahui, Jackson Willison, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Stephen Donald, Brendon Leonard, Colin Bourke, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam (captain),

Kevin O'Neill, Craig Clarke, Nathan White, Aled de Malmanche, Sona Taumalolo.

Reserves - Hika Elliot, Ben Afeaki, James McGougan, Culum Retallick, Jarrad Hoeata, Junior Poluleuligaga, Tim Nanai-Williams.

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