The Chiefs’ preparations for Saturday night’s Super Rugby Pacific match against the Crusaders in Christchurch have been hit by Covid-19.

There were a couple of eyebrow-raising selections when their team was released on Wednesday evening, and only six injured players featuring on the ‘unavailable for selection’ list at the bottom of the press release.

But, asked about his lineup on Thursday, coach Clayton McMillan revealed they have one positive Covid case in the squad, with another half dozen players having also not been considered for the round-four contest, in order to try and limit the disruption somewhat.

The Crusaders have welcomed nine All Blacks and a host of key figures back into their starting lineup for their Super Rugby Pacific clash against the Chiefs in Christchurch on Saturday.

All in all, head coach Scott Robertson has made a whopping 11 changes to his starting team from the second-string side that dispatched Moana Pasifika 33-12 at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin last Friday.

Those changes have yielded an entirely new backline featuring All Blacks quintet Richie Mo’unga, vice-captain David Havili, Braydon Ennor, Sevu Reece and Will Jordan, as well as halfback Bryn Hall and wing Leicester Fainga’anuku.

“We had seven guys identified after the weekend, one has come back as a positive case but asymptomatic, the other six have all been cleared through PCR and RAT testing.

“But because we took the very safe measure of having them isolate away from the group, it meant that they missed Monday’s and Tuesday’s training, so in order to prepare the team as best as possible to go down and play the Crusaders, we felt it was better that we just selected the team in advance of them being cleared.”

“You can put some really robust measures in place to try and keep this virus out, but it finds its way in,” he said.

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“What we know is that you’ve just got to remain flexible, but you need to put the interests of the team first.

“So when we feel like we’ve potentially been put at risk, then we’ll isolate those people, and we’ll select the team with what we have left available.

“But we needed to give the team that we knew was going to be available the best opportunity to prepare, and hence some younger guys have been given an opportunity, and we’re entirely happy with that.

Kia ora, good evening and welcome to our live coverage of NZ Warriors' NRL season-opening clash with St George Dragons at Sunshine Coast Stadium.

After yet another season without playoff football, the Warriors begin 2022 optimistic that this will be their year.

And why not, don't they have superstar half Shaun Johnson back on board, after three years with Cronulla Sharks.

For sure, they have made some intriguing off-season pick-ups and owner Mark Robinson has laid down the law that perennial underachievement is not part of his plan for the club.

Coach Nathan Brown will not have wiz kid Reece Walsh or enforcer Matt Lodge at his disposal, after they were suspended a week for their part in the ugly brawl against Gold Coast Titans at the end of last season. Walsh will also miss next week, after he was arrested for cocaine possession at a Surfer's Paradise bar.

Instead, Chanel Harris-Tavita will make his first appearance at fullback for the club, while Kodi Nikorima will partner Johnson in the halves and rookie Viliami Vailea will made his debut in the centres.

The Dragons finished just above the Warriors on the 2021 ladder with the same record, but slightly better points difference.

The Warriors won their opening clash last season, but let victory slip from their grasp on July 2, when Dragons wing Cody Ramsey scored a last-minute try to level the scores, then Corey Norman kicked a Golden Point field goal to steal the game.

TAB Odds: St George $1.80, NZ Warriors $1.97

NZ Warriors: 1-Chanel Harris-Tavita, 2-Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 3-Viliami Vailea, 4-Rocco Berry, 5-Marcelo Montoya, 6-Kodi Nikorima, 7-Shaun Johnson, 8-Addin Fonua-Blake (c), 9-Wayde Egan, 10-Bunty Afoa, 11-Euan Aitken, 12-Eliesa Katoa, 13-Josh Curran

Interchange (from): 14-Jazz Tevaga, 15-Ben Murdoch-Masila, 16-Aaron Pene, 17-Bayley Sironen, 18-Jack Murchie, 20-Ash Taylor

St George Dragons: 1-Tyrell Sloan, 2-Cody Ramsey, 3-Moses Suli, 4-Zac Lomax, 5-Mikaele Ravalawa, 6-Talatau Amone, 7-Ben Hunt, 8-Aaron Woods, 9-Andrew McCullough, 10-Blake Lawrie, 11-Jack Bird, 12-Jaydn Su'A, 13Jack De Belin

Interchange (from): 14-Moses Mbye, 15-Francis Molo, 16-Josh Kerr, 17-Jack Gosiewski, 18-Jackson Ford, 19-Mathew Feagai

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The Warriors will field a mostly predictable team to open the NRL season on Saturday against the St George-Illawarra Dragons (7:30pm NZT), though not without a couple of selection gambles.

The biggest sees Chanel Harris-Tavita