Sonny Bill gets No.12 jersey for Hurricanes clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Blues are determined to finish their Super Rugby season with a flourish against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.
They welcome back All Blacks Rieko Ioane and Patrick Tuipulotu after their final All Blacks stand-down last week in their agonising one-point loss against the Reds.
Tuipulotu will join with Scott Scrafton in the second row while upfront the experienced James Parsons will play his 106th game for the Blues, elevating him to fourth in overall Blues history behind Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and Jerome Kaino.
He will be flanked in the front row by the in-form Alex Hodgman and Marcel Renata, who gets his first start against the team he played for last year. Renata replaces All Black Ofa Tuungafasi, who has his final stand-down after some outstanding form in the last month.
The same dynamic back row starts again in captain Blake Gibson, Dalton Papalii and Akira Ioane, who makes his 35th start in a row, virtually all of them the full 80 minutes. The resilient 23-year-old will earn his 65t hcap for the Blues, having played in every game for the past three seasons
Augustine Pulu, who scored two tries and had a third controversially ruled out, is rewarded with another start, his 87th Super cap and 37t hand final game for the Blues before heading to Japan. He is partnered inside flyhalf Otere Black.
There is a new midfield with Sonny Bill Williams making a return from a knee injury, having last played against the Waratahs in Round Seven. He will partner 20-year-old Tanielu Tele’a, who has impressed on the wing in his rookie season. Tele’a moves to his more accustomed midfield role alongside Williams, with TJ Faiane, who has started in every game, out with a hand injury.
The Blues back three is reunited with Rieko Ioane playing his 49th game for the Blues. Caleb Clarke returns from injury and Melani Nanai, who joins Akira Ioane as the only players to start in every game this year, is at fullback for the final time before he heads to the UK.
It means Ma’a Nonu, who has been such an influential player this year, will add his energy off the bench.
PLAY OF THE WEEK | Super Rugby 2019 Rd 17
There are few better sights in Super Rugby than Ma’a Nonu at full flight, the Blues centre claiming the honours for spotting the gap and picking the pass for Augustine Pulu to score against the Reds.#SuperRugby #PlayOfTheWeek #SR2019 pic.twitter.com/eJqA4NgMzh
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) June 11, 2019
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 Tanielu Tele’a, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (captain), 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Marcel Renata, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Hisa Sasagi, 18 Lua Li, 19 Tom Robinson, 20 Josh Goodhue, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Ma’a Nonu.
Date: Saturday, June 15
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)