Blues reveal new captain for Hurricanes clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Blues are amped and ready to ensure that the Easter break will be no holiday for the visiting Hurricanes when they clash in the Super Rugby Aotearoa match at Eden Park on Saturday.
The second-placed Blues, with two wins and two losses in their opening four games, will begin the second round of the competition following their 31-16 victory over the Canes in the opening match in Wellington.
Coach Leon MacDonald has made several changes after the disappointing loss to the Chiefs, although most of the Blues squad from that win in Wellington last month will take part this weekend.
The only “new faces” from the opening match are veteran TJ Faiane, who gets his first start after an injury-delayed season, and exciting young lock Sam Darry, who made his impressive Super Rugby debut against the Highlanders.
Darry comes in for captain Patrick Tuipulotu, who has not recovered from a shoulder injury received in last weekend’s match.
Loose forward Tom Robinson, who made a significant impact off the bench against the Chiefs, has earned his first start of the season at loose forward and will captain the side.
Sam Nock gets his opportunity to start at scrumhalf for the second time this season with Jonathan Ruru expected to add real thrust again from the reserves.
The front row continues the inter-change of All Black props with Ofa Tuungafasi welcomed at home in front of friends and family for his 101st game in blue, and Karl Tu’inukuafe, both starting.
The potential new cap will come in the form of strong-running wing AJ Lam, outstanding in the Mitre-10 Cup, and rewarded after continuing to impress on the training field.
Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Sam Nock, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson (captain), 5 Sam Darry, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Luteru Tolai, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 AJ Lam.
Date: Saturday, April 3
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.05 (06.05 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant referees: Paul Williams, James Doleman
TMO: Ben O’Keeffe