Super Rugby

Blues largely unchanged for Bulls battle

James Parsons (Gallo)
James Parsons (Gallo)

Eden Park - The Blues have named a largely unchanged team for Friday's Super Rugby encounter against the Bulls at Eden Park.

Kick-off is as 09:35 (SA time).

Coach Leon MacDonald has retained virtually the same starting line-up that produced an impressive defensive effort in the 19-11 loss to the competition-leading Crusaders in Christchurch.

He wants to see the same level of commitment and convert their attacking chances on Friday.

"We want to show our fans a top-quality performance. While it is our last regular competition game at home, we would love to be back here in the playoffs," MacDonald told the Blues' official website.

"We've done a lot of things well in recent weeks and we have trained impressively. We are ready to produce a complete performance, and there's no better opportunity than at Eden Park in front of our fans, friends and family."

The backline remains unchanged for the third straight game, with one change in the forwards where centurion James Parsons returns from injury to start at hooker.

The resilient 23-year-old No 8 Akira Ioane will make his 32nd straight start, virtually all with 80-minute performances, with All Black Dalton Papalii not recovered 100 percent from a head knock.

"Akira has worked hard on improving his game this year and he has been such a work-horse for us, especially early on when we had injuries with the loose forwards," said MacDonald.

"We have to remember he is still a very young man and we had initially looked to lighten his load and bring him off the bench this week.

"But while Dalton is very close to full fitness, we did not want to take any risks and will keep him back until next week. We know Akira will put in another big effort for us."

Ioane will link with co-captain Blake Gibson and impressive rookie Tom Robinson in a potent back row.

MacDonald said the side is not watching the Super Rugby table, but rather fully focussed on the remaining three regular-season games.

"We are taking them one at a time and want to finish each really strongly. Then we add up the points and see if we continue into the post-season playoffs."

Teams:

Blues

15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Jonathan Ruru; 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (co-captain), 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (co-captain), 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2 James Parsons Leni Apisai, 1 Alex Hodgman

Substitutes: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Lua Li, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Hoskins Sotutu, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Otere Black, 23 Tanielu Tele’a

Bulls

TBA

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