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The Battle of the Bombays descends on the pristine battleground of FMG Stadium Waikato this Friday night when the Gallagher Chiefs host northern rivals the Blues in a thrilling Round 2 local derby clash. With both teams buoyed by opening round victories, fans are in for a spectacular display of Investec Super Rugby.

Friday’s fixture is particularly special for Gallagher Chiefs co-captain Aaron Cruden, with the outstanding first five-eighth to play in his 100th Investec Super Rugby game. The remarkable milestone is testament to the dedication, determination and resilience Cruden has exhibited countless times in his 28-years, making him the exceptional leader of Chiefs he is today.

Cruden’s teammates will be looking to honour his achievement through a match-winning performance in their first home game of the 2017 season. Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has named a formidable 23 to take on the Blues, with seven changes to the team that defeated the Pulse Energy Highlanders 24-15 in Dunedin last Friday.

In the forwards, the experienced tight five remains the same for the second consecutive week. A reshuffle in the loose forwards sees Liam Messam move to blindside flanker from number 8, Lachlan Boshier is promoted from the bench to start at seven and Michael Leitch makes his first appearance for 2017 at number 8.

There is just one change in the backs, with Tim Nanai-Williams moving from the bench to start in jersey 14. In the reserves, the front row cover is unchanged, while Taleni Seu is an exciting replacement option in jersey 19 alongside Tom Sanders who could make his first appearance for 2017 in jersey 20. Speedster Toni Pulu moves to the bench to join Jonathan Taumateine and Shaun Stevenson as backs cover.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Blues at 7.35pm on Friday is:
1. Kane Hames (10)
2. Hika Elliot (105)
3. Nepo Laulala (1)
4. Dominic Bird (12)
5. Brodie Retallick (72)
6. Liam Messam (147)
7. Lachlan Boshier (9)
8. Michael Leitch (23)
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (68)
10. Aaron Cruden (captain) (74)
11. James Lowe (38)
12. Johnny Faauli (1)
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (25)
14. Tim Nanai-Williams (78)
15. Damian McKenzie (34)

RESERVES:

16. Samisoni Taukei’aho (1)
17. Siegfried Fisi’ihoi (12)
18. Atu Moli (12)
19. Taleni Seu (19)
20. Tom Sanders (15)
21. Jonathan Taumateine (1)
22. Toni Pulu (14)
23. Shaun Stevenson (8)

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets

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 and Stephen Donald.
Friday evening’s action starts early with the University of Waikato Chiefs Taua Development team taking on the Blues Development team at 5pm. Tickets to the Battle of the Bombays clash between the Gallagher Chiefs and the Blues are available now from ticketdirect.co.nz or 0800 4 CHIEFS.

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