Coach Leon MacDonald said that a key finding from last year was that a number of the squad dropped their intensity after playing too many minutes week-in, week-out.
“At the beginning of the season I said that we would select on form, and that we over-played some players last year and their form dropped off as a result,” said MacDonald.
“Hoskins was selected at No 8 on form and has played exceptionally well for us. Equally Akira has been training hard. He is in terrific shape and raring to go now that he has his chance.”
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Meanwhile, Dalton Papalii will miss the game as he sits out his first mandatory All Black break.
“We are blessed right now in terms of loose forwards with Blake Gibson able to start at seven and with Tony Lamborn to provide the thrust off the bench.”
All Black Ofa Tu’ungafasi swaps with Sione Mafileo in the starting line-up, while James Parsons, who returns from injury, and Ezekiel Lindenmuth, come into the reserves. There is excitement within the squad with North Harbour’s Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, a key forward in the 2019 campaign, returning off the bench after successful rehabilitation from a pec muscle rupture in the Mitre-10 Cup.
“We enjoyed an excellent two weeks in South Africa but with some unexpected disruption travelling home has meant we will only get a couple of on-field training sessions this week, “said MacDonald.
“That’s not ideal but we will do our best to test our ability to be a more consistently competitive combination.”
The Blues A team play their Hurricanes counterparts in Wellington on Saturday at 1pm at Evans Bay.
Blues: Stephen Perofeta, Joe Marchant, Rieko Ioane, TJ Faiane, Mark Telea, Otere Black, Sam Nock; Akira Ioane, Blake Gibson, Tom Robinson, Jacob Pierce, Patrick Tuipulotu (c), Ofa Tuungafasi, Kurt Eklund, Karl Tu’inukuafe. Reserves: James Parsons, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Sione Mafileo, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Tony Lamborn, Jonathan Ruru, Harry Plummer, Matt Duffie.
– Blues Rugby
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