Blues to unleash England international
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: On the back of two straight wins, Blues coach Leon MacDonald has resisted any change to his starting line-up for their third-round Super Rugby Aotearoa match against the Highlanders.
The Blues will host the southerners at Eden Park on Saturday.
MacDonald said a number of the squad have pressed hard for inclusion but the current group continued to prove themselves on the paddock.
The only change comes in the reserves where England international Joe Marchant is included in what will be his final match for the Blues before returning to his Harlequins club in London.
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MacDonald said that several players should return to play through club rugby in the coming two weeks and be available for selection for the Crusaders match after the bye.
The Blues prevailed over the Highlanders 33-26 at Eden Park last year while the tight battle between the two sides is evidenced with nine of last 17 clashes decided by seven points or less.
Players not considered with injury: Karl Tu’inukuafe (leg strain), Jack Heighton (quad), Jared Page (pec), Stephen Perofeta (fractured foot), Blake Gibson (hamstring), Tom Robinson (knee). Season ending: Ray Niuia, James Tucker, Tanielu Tele’a.
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 Joe Marchant.
Date: Saturday, June 27
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.05 (07.05 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill, Ben O’Keeffe
TMO: Mike Fraser