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.
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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