Moli’s return bolsters Chiefs for Brumbies clash

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Coming off their close call with the Force, when a match-winning conversion was missed by the home side in Perth, the Chiefs face a Brumbies side who missed a draw with the Crusaders from a similar miss.

 

Several changes have been made to the Chiefs line-up but one, the return of prop Atu Moli from injury, is especially welcome.

 

Few players have endured the journey Moli has been through.

 

Most recently he was sidelined with chronic hip dysfunction that required surgery to both his hips. But earlier, in 2018, he suffered compartment syndrome after suffering a haematoma to a quad. That proved a season-ending injury.

 

Back on track for the 2019 season, the tighthead prop who made his All Blacks' debut in 2017 had his sights on making the World Cup squad. But injury struck again when an elbow problem kept him out for half of the Super Rugby campaign.

 

However, he did recover and secured a World Cup place to play his fourth Test.

 

Coach Clayton McMillan said his run of injuries had been treacherous, yet he had retained a positive outlook and had probably plenty of value in the team environment.

"It demonstrates a level of professionalism and maturity and understanding that injuries are, unfortunately, a big part of the pretty physical game that we play.

 

"He's had his fair share, but the way you carry yourself under those circumstances tells a lot about the man. And, he's done a great job, and that's been there for everybody to see, both young and old, and he's set a really good example there," he said.

 

The coaches had been asking Moli for two or three weeks if he was ready to return but he opted to play more club rugby.

 

But he was ready now and was keen.

 

"There'll be rust there for sure, we don't expect to see the Atu of 2018 or 2019 straight away. He'll build his way back.

 

"But, we wouldn't feed him to the wolves if we didn't think that he was up to it. He's towelled up a few guys at training, and that's a pretty good indicator that he's good to go," he said.

 

He had been training on the tighthead side of the scrum and with Angus Ta'avao suffering a groin strain the chance was to have him come off the bench in that role.

 

Several changes have been made to the backs, a reflection of the number of injuries the side had sustained. Bailyn Sullivan has replaced Shaun Stevenson on the wing, Chase Tiatia is at fullback while Damian McKenzie has returned to first five-eighths. Kaleb Trask will cover from the bench.

 

"In some positions, we're starting to run pretty thin," McMillan said.

 

"In the backs, particularly around our back three, for a good portion of the season, you've seen a little bit of rotation there, and it's been frustrating for the players, and the coaches, that no one has taken the opportunity to bang the door down and say, 'This is my jersey'.

 

"It's a little bit of a Ferris wheel there, and, hopefully, sooner rather than later, we settle on a combination," he said.

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