Blues just got a whole lot more dangerous
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: All Black loose forwards Dalton Papalii and Akira Ioane return to the Blues starting line-up for Saturday’s second round of the Super Rugby Aotearoa against the Chiefs in Hamilton.
They are the only changes from the team that accounted for the Hurricanes 30-20 in the first-round clash at Eden Park.
Papalii, who came off the bench last week, starts at No.7 while Ioane, with 68 Blues caps to his credit, comes in at No.6 replacing Blake Gibson and Tom Robinson respectively, who are both unavailable due to injury.
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The Blues have the same front five but are bolstered with the return of North Harbour’s Sione Mafileo, one of the standouts earlier in the season, who will earn his 50th cap off the bench.
The trio of in-form Hoskins Sotutu, Papalii and Ioane will form a potent trio in what should be a pivotal battle at the breakdown.
The backline remains unchanged with Otere Black, who celebrated his blazer game for the Blues in the win over the Hurricanes, remains at flyhalf with Beauden Barrett again starting at fullback, to form an exciting back four with Rieko Ioane at centre and wings Caleb Clarke and Mark Telea.
Blues: 15 Beauden Barrett, 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 Akira Ioane, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tony Lamborn, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Matt Duffie.
Date: Saturday, June 20
Venue: FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.05 (07.05 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser, Paul Williams
TMO: James Doleman