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Suva possible scene setter for finals

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Lynn McConnell     30 Jun 2016     Getty Images

Chiefs assistant coach Neil Barnes said both sides were in the same position and would both be going hard at it for the win.

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"Being at this stage of the season with only a few games until the quarter-finals and semi-finals there's way more pressure on. We're both in the same position so it's going to be whoever gets the output on the paddock," he said.

During the break the side had addressed issues with their defence that were exposed in their last game, a loss against the Waratahs.

"We weren't very happy with how they got through us on the insides so we've done a lot of work on that in the last three weeks to remedy that situation," he said.

Barnes said new All Black Seta Tamanivalu was 'fizzing' after his exposure to the international preparation and match play during the Welsh series. He was also enjoying being back in front of friends and family in Fiji.

"He's got a lot of contacts here and the people here adore him so he's bubbling away and hopefully he'll get out on the paddock and deliver something special for us," he said.

While there were things the All Blacks management wanted him to work on, it was more a case of fitting him back into the Chiefs systems so he could have that in place for Friday's game and could go out and express himself.
He said Damian McKenzie, who was also in the All Blacks' squad but who didn't get to play, had benefitted from the exposure to the systems. He also had things the selectors wanted him to work on.

"But the big thing is mentally they are buzzing. If you get in a mix like that you can't help but come back and feel confident about yourself and wanting to get out there and play. He's a bit like Seta, he's been bouncing around the place in the last 24 hours," he said.

Barnes said the selection of former All Black Stephen Donald at first five-eighths ahead of Aaron Cruden was based on the leadership Donald provided for the side during the international window.

He said the non-Test Chiefs players had put three weeks of work into the game and Donald had been driving the side throughout that period and backing up from his form against Wales it was an opportunity for him to run the game with Cruden coming out at some stage from the bench.

"He's a very experienced man and he's part of our attack group as well so a lot of the tactical changes we've made for the Crusaders have been driven by him and Kieran Keane and the fact that he can run it around the paddock saves Aaron having to walk back in from the All Blacks camp and drive things at trainings at the moment. At 10 it's a big help to the side when you've got someone like that leading so he's been awesome," he said.

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In the high temperatures the bench would have to be managed well but he was confident in the firepower the side could launch from the bench.

"It won't be different to any other week. It will depend how the game is going in different areas in different areas of the park and if it is going to add to it we'll put them out whenever that arises," he said.

Barnes said Charlie Ngatai, who was unable to turn out for the All Blacks against Wales after being named in the squad due to concussion problems, was looking much better. While he wasn't in Fiji he had seen him at the side's Ruakura base earlier in the week and he was looking well and while there was no firm date for his return it was looking positive.

The game will also mark hooker Hika Elliot's 100th game for the side and that would be reward for a player who was 100 percent Chief, he said.

"He's been heavily involved in the emotional side of the team. It's a massive achievement playing 100 games for this franchise and he's a good man to have around and a good motivator in the team so hopefully we can do him proud come Friday night," Barnes said.