Chiefs shaping up well for 2022 season - McMillan

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Coach Clayton McMillan touches wood as he says it given the experience that many Chiefs coaches have had to endure on the injury front.


But one thing that won't change, especially from last season, is the interest and scrutiny of who plays first five-eighths for the side.


The departure of Damian McKenzie for Japan took one factor out of the equation temporarily, but Josh Ioane's arrival from the Highlanders has returned the interest in the question.


Former All Black Ioane had impressed McMillan by coming in before Christmas to familiarise himself with the Chiefs' set-up.


"He's in good nick physically and is starting to find his voice at training," he said.


McMillan said first five-eighths would probably be the most contested position in games. Kaleb Trask, Bryn Gatland and Rivez Reihana were also in the squad and pushing their cases for the role.


"Josh has come to the Chiefs because he wants to play 10 [first five-eighths], and he sees an opportunity to challenge for a starting spot. What we haven't done, and what I wouldn't do with any player, is give him a guarantee or a rite of passage to a jersey.

"They've got to come and earn it like everybody else so. Josh has made every post a winner, but I've been equally impressed by the other guys. That's what competition does, it means if you want to start then everyone has to raise their game, and if we do that the season is looking promising," he said.


McMillan was pleased with the response from players to their pre-season conditioning and said the numbers they produced when tested were among the best recorded at the franchise.


"It's meant that we've been able to get into some of the rugby details right from the get-go," he said.


Interest was also high in the chemistry achieved in the coaching group as Warren Gatland stepped back from head coach to the role of director of rugby.


McMillan said the coaches had found their niche quickly.


"We got along well but we challenge each other pretty hard and are all open to growing so the early signs are that it is going to be a great relationship right across the board," he said.


Neil Barnes' departure had seen McMillan take on the lineout coaching. David Hill's defensive brief will increase, and Gatland will work alongside Hill to provide some guidance.


"Gats has been in here every day so it is not a part-time role for him. We want him to be here and we want him to have an active role in everything we do," he said.


"It's only taken a couple of weeks for us all to get into our groove, we're happy in our work and I'm really confident that his experience is going to serve us really well in the role he's got," he said.


Former Black Ferns Sevens coach Allan Bunting will also be involved in skills coaching with the group alongside his coaching of the Chiefs' Manawa team in the women's competition.


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