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DMac injured ahead of Brumbies clash, smart mouthguard leaves All Black's mouth agape as he's hooked at crucial moment

23rd February, 2024
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23rd February, 2024
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The Chiefs face a worrying wait over the fitness of star No.10 Damian McKenzie, who was forced off early in the second half of a thrilling Super Rugby opener against the Crusaders – while a new concussion protocol left an All Black shaking his head.

McKenzie was imperious before he appeared to suffer a hurt rib. He led the Chiefs to a 14-point halftime lead which was wiped out after he departed in the second and replaced by Josh Ioane.

There was a promising Crusaders debut for their No.10 Rivez Reihana before he too was forced off injured. There were more casualties in a frantic and hard fought season opener.

Quinn Tupaea, who missed the World Cup after being injured by Darcy Swain, and Perth-raised All Black Tamaiti Williams are also in doubt for next week; Williams appearing to hurt his hamstring after a 40 metre sprint.

DMac’s departure changed the game as the Chiefs control loosened.

“We made a couple of poor deciisons early on in the second half which took all our momentum away, Said winning coach Clayton McMillan. “We made errors which gifted them momentum and they were good enough to turn the tables.”

The Crusaders, with new coach Rob Penney at the helm, were outstanding in the second half to hit the lead, only to watch a big play from Etene Nanai-Seturo swing the momentum back the way of the home team.

Xavier Roe (l) and Quinn Tupaea (r) of the Chiefs celebrate with Etene Nanai-Seturo (c) of the Chiefs after he scored try during the round one Super Rugby Pacific match between Chiefs and Crusaders at FMG Stadium Waikato, on February 23, 2024, in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Xavier Roe (l) and Quinn Tupaea (r) of the Chiefs celebrate with Etene Nanai-Seturo (c) of the Chiefs after he scored try. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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Nanai-Seturo launched a booming 50-22 with five minute to go and the team down by two points. They rode that through to a penalty kick from right in front. Ioane added another right at the death to clinch the four-point win.

The game was the first in Super Rugby to include the use of smart mouthguards, which can detect a high-impact collision and lead to the the removal of a player from the field for a head injury assessment.

The have been made mandatory in elite competitions by World Rugby after studies and trials and this is part of a worldwide rollut.

Players have been concerned with the fit of the mouthguards – and two players were completely bemused by being subjected to HIAs on Friday.

Crusaders lock Quinten Strange was forced off in the 14th minute but the biggest impact was felt five minutes from time when Anton Lienert-Brown was hooked for a HIA to his complete bafflement.

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Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan said the mouthguards had been well discussed.

“The rules are pretty straightforward,” he said. “If somebody on the sideline sees an incident that’s worth having to look at then the player’s got to come off. He was pretty bit perplexed, not too sure why but that’s what we’re going to be seeing.”

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