Blues rest a few stars against lowly Lions
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Blues head coach Leon MacDonald has named his team to face the Lions in their Super Rugby Round Seven encounter in Auckland.
With captain Patrick Tuipulotu to sit out his All Black rest, along with Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 46-game veteran Gerard Cowley-Tuioti gets his first start of the season after coming off the bench in his first game back from an injury in the Mitre-10 Cup.
There’s a strong look to the pack with in-form Karl Tu’inukuafe joining 110-cap hooker James Parsons and Sione Mafileo, playing his 49th time for the Blues, forming the front row, while All Black Dalton Papalii returns from his break to join Blake Gibson and Hoskins Sotutu in the loose forwards.
The backline is virtually unchanged with Matt Duffie, like his North Harbour mate Mafileo, playing his 49th game to give Joe Marchant his first rest of the season with TJ Faiane to take over the captaincy.
There is plenty of impact to come off the bench especially Akira Ioane, who covers all three loose forward spots, and impressed against the Hurricanes last week.
Southland replacement prop Joe Walsh is set to earn his debut for the Blues off the bench along with hooker Luteru Tolai, who made an excellent job as a replacement in the win over the Stormers in South Africa.
Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane (captain), 11 Mark Telea, 10 Otere Black, 9 Sam Nock, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Jacob Pierce, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Luteru Tolai, 17 Joe Walsh, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Aaron Carroll/Sam Caird, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Emoni Narawa.
Date: Saturday, March 14
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 16.25 (05.25 SA time; 03.35 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
The Lions Rugby Company will release Cyle Brink from his contract as requested by him, with immediate effect.
— Emirates Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) March 10, 2020