Hamilton - The Chiefs have named 38 players in their squad for the 2015 Super Rugby season, according to the Chiefs' website.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said: “We believe we have assembled a squad high in character with impact, depth and versatility. We expect this group of hard working men to play a brand of Chiefs rugby that is entertaining for people to watch and will get results.
“We are pleased that our squad contains a number of players coming through our Chiefs development programme who are making the step up to Super Rugby.”
The numbers breakdown of the 2015 squad shows there are 23 returning Chiefs players, with 21 of those from last year. The squad features 20 players from Chiefs Provincial Unions with five players from the Chiefs Development programme. Those players are Johan Bardoul, Damian McKenzie, Toni Pulu, Seta Tamanivalu and Maama Vaipulu.
There are a further 16 players from other Provincial Unions and two players returning from playing in Japan. Ten of the Chiefs squad played in the thrilling ITM Cup final that was won by Taranaki, one of the six Provincial Unions that make up the Chiefs.
Wing Hosea Gear is returning to New Zealand to play Super Rugby after playing in France and Japan and he is joined by New Zealand-born Japanese national captain Michael Leitch. The loose forward returns to the Chiefs having been a member of the squad in 2013.
The Chiefs take great pride in being a family but this season it takes on another dimension with brothers Damien and Marty McKenzie and cousins Tim Nanai-Williams and Sonny Bill Williams in the side. Exciting returning Chiefs player Williams is expected to attract great interest alongside his fellow All Blacks Brodie Retallick, Liam Messam, Aaron Cruden and Sam Cane. Williams is looking forward to the season ahead.“I am excited to be back home playing with the Chiefs family,” he said.
Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow who was injured during a recent All Blacks match will continue his long-term rehabilitation with the squad in the Chiefs environment.
The Chiefs have a truly regional focus to their season with their home fixtures being played at three venues across Chiefs country.
Five matches will be hosted at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton and two will be played at Yarrow Stadium in Taranaki, including their first home match against the Brumbies on Friday, February 20.
After a very successful pre-season match at Rotorua International Stadium last year, the Chiefs will host a 2015 round robin match against the Bulls at the venue. The Chiefs will also spend a week in Counties Manukau prior to Christmas for their camp.
2015 Chiefs Super Rugby squad:Ben Afeaki, Michael Allardice, Johan Bardoul, Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden, Mike Fitzgerald, Leon Fukofuka, Hosea Gear, Mitchell Graham, Nathan Harris, Bryce Heem, Andrew Horrell, Tevita Koloamatangi, Michael Leitch, Anton Lienert-Brown, James Lowe, Pauliasi Manu, Tom Marshall, Rhys Marshall, Damian McKenzie, Quentin MacDonald, Jamie Mackintosh, Marty McKenzie, Liam Messam, Charlie Ngatai, Sean Polwart, Brodie Retallick, Augustine Pulu, Toni Pulu, Liam Squire, Matt Symons, Seta Tamanivalu, Ben Tameifuna, Siate Tokolahi, Maama Vaipulu, Brad Weber, Sonny Bill Williams, Tim Nanai-Williams