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Gallagher Chiefs midfield sensation Charlie Ngatai makes his return to Investec Super Rugby this weekend, starting at second five-eighth against the Reds at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth. It’s a fitting venue for the 26-year-old to make his comeback in front of thousands of fans, many of whom have also enjoyed Ngatai’s thrilling performances for his provincial team Taranaki.

The humble midfielder is not the only exciting addition to the Gallagher Chiefs this week, with All Black hooker Nathan Harris being named in the reserves. The 25-year old has diligently worked his way back from a knee injury sustained in August 2016 to make his first appearance this season. 

Anticipating a combative and astute Reds side, Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has named an experienced and motivated playing 23. There are eight changes to the starting fifteen that defeated the Sunwolves 27-20 to record their eighth win of the season last Saturday. 

In the forwards, Brodie Retallick returns to the side as the sole change to the tight five. There’s a reshuffle in the loose forwards with co-captain Sam Cane shifting from number 8 to openside flanker. Mitchell Brown is promoted from the bench to start at blindside flanker, and Michael Leitch returns to the 23 to start at number 8.

A dangerous backline awaits the Reds, with five All Blacks named to start. Tawera Kerr-Barlow returns to re-establish his partnership with co-captain Aaron Cruden in jerseys 9 and 10 respectively. Charlie Ngatai links up with Anton Lienert-Brown to form a formidable midfield combination, with James Lowe, Toni Pulu and Damian McKenzie completing the backline at 11, 14 and fullback. 

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Reds at 7.35pm this Saturday 6 May is:

1.            Kane Hames (17)

2.            Hika Elliot (113)

3.            Nepo Laulala (6)

4.            Dominic Bird (20)

5.            Brodie Retallick (79)

6.            Mitchell Brown (9)

7.            Sam Cane (co-captain) (88)

8.            Michael Leitch (29)

9.            Tawera Kerr-Barlow (75)

10.          Aaron Cruden (co-captain) (82)

11.          James Lowe (45)

12.          Charlie Ngatai (39)

13.          Anton Lienert-Brown (33)

14.          Toni Pulu (19)

15.          Damian McKenzie (42)  

RESERVES:

16.          Nathan Harris (23)

17.          Atu Moli (19)

18.          Siegfried Fisi’ihoi (19)

19.          Taleni Seu (26)

20.          Liam Messam (154)

21.          Jonathan Taumateine (3)

22.          Sam McNicol (15)

23.          Shaun Stevenson (16)

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets

Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Glen Fisiiahi, Tim Nanai-Williams, Liam Polwart, James Tucker and Finlay Christie.

Two fierce Taranaki rugby rivals will set the tone early this Saturday with New Plymouth Boys High School taking on Francis Douglas Memorial College in the curtain raiser. Gates open to Yarrow Stadium at 5pm, with the highly-anticipated annual secondary school match kicking off at 5.10pm.  

The Gallagher Chiefs Round 11 contest against the Reds kicks off at 7.35pm this Saturday 6 May. Tickets are available from the TSB Showplace, ticketdirect.co.nz or 0800 4 CHIEFS.

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