Chiefs set for fierce response from wounded Reds in Townsville

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Coach Clayton McMillan said the Reds were a better side than was shown against the Crusaders.

 

"They were punched in the face [by the Crusaders], and we are expecting a reaction. [Reds' coach] Brad Thorn is well known to us in New Zealand. I do not imagine he would have been too happy with that outcome, especially being a former Crusader.

 

"We are expecting a real backlash, and we have talked about it all week, so we are prepared for that," he said.

 

The side had 14 hours travel from Hamilton to their hotel in Townsville and were preparing for a game in more summer-like conditions on Saturday.

 

They learned on Thursday that Covid-19 has forced a seven-day lockdown in Melbourne that could extend their stay in Australia. As a result of travel restriction, the Chiefs, who were due to host the Rebels in Hamilton, may have to make alternate plans and stay in Australia to play the Rebels, with their final game a week later also in Sydney against the Waratahs.

 

"It could be a busy old time. We need to put everybody's health first and foremost but also, from a performance perspective, figure out what we can do in these challenging times to give ourselves the best opportunity to hit the ground running in the best shape we can be," he said.

 

 

Prop Atu Moli was ill earlier in the week so missed the trip while Angus Ta'avao returns with Aidan Ross on the loosehead with Bradley Slater hooking.

 

The side's locking issues have seen Mitchell Brown return at lock while Pita Gus Sowakula is starting on the blindside flank ahead of Liam Messam, who will come off the bench later.

 

Kaleb Trask will start at fullback with Chase Tiatia on the wing after Jonah Lowe suffered a hamstring injury last weekend.

 

The decision to retain Damian McKenzie was down to all the contenders having had their chance to stake a claim for the role but McKenzie offered more of a point of difference by keeping opposing defences guessing that opened up opportunities for players outside him.

 

He had also learned to temper his game to the circumstances that was another factor in him sealing the role.

 

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