Chiefs preparations on course for 2022

For a team that has suffered more in terms of injuries than most, the Chiefs look poised to start the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific competition in better shape than they have been in a few years.

Coach Clayton McMillan is touching wood as he says given the experience many Chiefs coaches have endured in terms of injuries.

Key position under the microscope

But one thing that won’t change, especially from last season, is the interest and control of who plays fly-half for the side.

Damian McKenzie’s departure to Japan temporarily took one factor out of the equation, but the arrival of Josh Ioane from the Highlanders has revived interest in the demand.

One-Test All Black Ioane impressed McMillan by coming in before Christmas to familiarize himself with the Chiefs setup.

“He is in good physical shape and is starting to find his voice in training,” the coach told the All Blacks official website.

McMillan said the fly-half position would probably be the most contested position on the team. Kaleb Trask, Bryn Gatland and Rivez Reihana were also on the squad, pushing for the role.

“Josh has come to the Chiefs because he wants to play 10 and he sees an opportunity to challenge for a starting spot,” he added. “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 have to come and earn it, just like everyone else. Josh made every post a winner, but I’m just as impressed with the other guys. That’s what competition does, it means if you want to start everyone has to improve their game, and if we do that, the season looks promising.”

McMillan has been pleased with the response from players to their pre-season conditioning, revealing that the numbers they produced during testing were among the best on record in the franchise.

“It means we can get into some rugby details from the get-go,” he said.

There was also a lot of interest in the chemistry achieved in the coaching group when Warren Gatland stepped down from head coach to the role of director of rugby.

McMillan said the coaches found their place quickly.

“We got on well, but we challenge each other pretty hard and are all open to growth, so the early signs are that it’s going to be a great relationship across the board,” he added.

Neil Barnes’ departure had seen McMillan take over lineout coaching. David Hill’s defensive assignment will increase and Gatland will work with Hill to provide some guidance.

“Gats has been here every day so it’s not a part-time role for him. We want him to be here and we want him to be an active part of everything we do,” said McMillan.

“It only took a few weeks for us all to get into our groove, we are happy with our work and I am confident that his experience will serve us very well in the role he has,” he said.

Former Black Ferns Sevens coach Allan Bunting will also be involved in skills coaching with the group in addition to coaching the Chiefs’ Manawa team in the women’s league.

READ MORE: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck on his transition to a rugby union player

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