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Muliaina at centre for the Chiefs

Loki Crichton will start for the Chiefs for the first time this season and Mils Muliaina will switch to centre in Saturday's Super 14 match against the Highlanders at the Waikato Stadium.

Chiefs coach Ian Foster has selected Crichton to start at fullback, with Muliaina, one of the strong contenders to replace the retired Tana Umaga at midfield in the All Blacks this season, moving from fullback to centre.

In another change to last week's chiefs backline, David Hill starts at second five-eighth.

Muliaina is, however, still under an injury cloud with a small fracture in his hand.

Whether he will play as named will be decided late tomorrow, coach Ian Foster said.

Experienced midfielder Mark Ranby has been left out of the squad this week.

"He has been great for us so far in this campaign. But Mark was sick near the end of the Brumbies match last weekend and since then he has lacked energy," Foster said.

"We've decided it is best to rest him."

Meanwhile, in the forwards, Simms Davison, Aleki Lutui and Ben Castle make up the Chiefs front row.

Hooker Tom Willis is on the bench.

Chiefs prop Deacon Manu was unavailable for selection due to gout in the toe. His injury has opened the door for rookie Chiefs prop Nathan White to make it into the Chiefs' 22.

The Chiefs' tallest player Sean Hohneck makes a return to the starting line-up and will lock alongside skipper Jono Gibbes. Bernie Upton is in the reserves.

"This week there are a couple of changes to our tight five. The overall desire is to make sure we have heaps of energy in that area and to show a bit more enthusiasm this week," Foster said.

Chiefs: Loki Crichton, Sosene Anesi, Mils Muliaina, David Hill, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Stephen Donald, Jamie Nutbrown, Sione Lauaki, Marty Holah, Steven Bates, Sean Hohneck, Jono Gibbes (captain), Ben Castle, Aleki Lutui, Simms Davison. Reserves: Tom Willis, Nathan White, Bernie Upton, Liam Messam, Byron Kelleher, Sam Tuitupou, Lelia Masaga.

NZPA