Blues head to Canberra without All Black star
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Blues are going back to the future as they begin a challenging second half of the Super Rugby season.
Their success earlier in the season was built on a solid starting platform with potent power off the bench to finish strongly, and plan to return to that strategy when they cross the Tasman to take on the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday.
The energisers off the bench include new Blues centurion James Parsons, All Blacks Patrick Tuipulotu, Karl Tu’inukuafe and Dalton Papalii along with Marcel Renata, former captain Augustine Pulu, Harry Plummer and Levi Aumua.
It means Alex Hodgman and All Black Ofa Tuungafasi combine for just the second time this season in the front row with a fit-again Leni Apisai rewarded with his first start after a notable impact off the bench against the Highlanders.
Co-captain Blake Gibson makes a welcome return to lead the side after being out for two games with a significant laceration to his knee, while Akira Ioane will start his 28th straight game at No.8.
All Black Rieko Ioane is spelled for his planned break which will see Caleb Clarke switch to the left wing while All Black Matt Duffie, who has recovered fully from his serious hamstring injury suffered in the National Provincial Cup, to make his first start of the season. The other change sees Sam Nock have his first start at halfback.
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Sam Nock, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (captain), 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Gerard Cowley Tuioti, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Leni Apisai, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Levi Aumua.
Date: Saturday, May 4
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19.45 (21.45 NZ time; 09.45 GMT)
Referee: Damon Murphy (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)