Planet Rugby

Preview: Chiefs v Force

09th May 2013 08:52

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Lelia Masaga chiefs v force

Deadly finisher: Lelia Masaga

The Chiefs will see Friday's visit of the Force to Pukekohe as a golden opportunity to take control of the New Zealand conference.

The Chiefs are four points clear of the Blues at the top of the Kiwi table and with the Aucklanders and Crusaders set to take points off each other next week, Saturday presents itself as an ideal chance for the defending champions to take a step towards securing a semi-final berth.

Although Aussie sides have had a good run against New Zealand opposition this year, the Chiefs will expect to prevail against a team that has won just two games all season.

And the history books don't offer the Force - who are bottom of the Australian conference - much to feel confident about. The Chiefs have won the last three clashes between these sides. In fact, the Force have only beaten the Chiefs once in six games, back in 2008.

History points to a high-scoring game (for the hosts at least). The Chiefs average four tries per game against the team from Perth and have always scored at least 20 points against them.

The Chiefs are coming off hard-fought victories over the Rebels and Sharks while the Force are winless in their last three outings.

Those stats need to be seen in perspective however as last week's draw against the Reds, and the shock win over the Crusaders in Round Nine, offer proof that the Force can trouble to heavyweights on their day.

Defeats to the Rebels (twice) and Kings do not, however, plead the case of a consistent team.

The Chiefs have been decimated by backline injuries but they are still able to line-up a quality side. There is little to suggest they won't keep on blitzing defences in the manner they have for the better part of two seasons.

Perhaps more importantly, a lot of wet weather this week means the Chiefs' pack - who are a settled unit - will have plenty of work to do.

Prediction: The hosts should take this. Chiefs by 15 points!

The teams:

Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Save Tokula, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 1Ben Tameifuna, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Asaeli Tikoirotuma.

Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Patrick Dellit, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Matt Hodgson (c), 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Heath Tessmann, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Rory Walton, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Junior Rasolea, 22 Sam Norton-Knight.

Date: Friday, May 10
Venue: ECOLight Stadium, Pukekohe
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Nick Briant and Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri

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1Chiefs825
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3Hurricanes821
4Blues816
5Highlanders615
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2Bulls919
3Lions916
4Stormers810
5Cheetahs99