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All Black Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to return for Blues this weekend

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

All Blacks midfielder Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has been named to return this weekend following a lengthy stint on the sidelines with a hand injury.

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Late last month, Blues coach Leon MacDonald revealed that Tuivasa-Sheck was feeling “pretty confident” with how he was “tracking” ahead of his return.

Now, after a fair stint on the sidelines, the dual-international has been included in the Blues’ matchday squad as one of 10 changes to the starting XV.

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Looking to win three games in a row for the first time this season, MacDonald has named a star-studded side to take on Moana Pasifika at Eden Park.

Among the changes in the forward pack, Kurt Eklund is set to start at hooker while All Black Akira Ioane will return to the starting side after a successful return from injury off the bench.

Playmaker Harry Plummer has shifted from inside centre to flyhalf, and will partner Taufa Funaki in the halves.

As for regular flyhalf Beauden Barrett, he’ll line up in the No. 15 jersey this week.

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With the playoffs just around the corner, coach MacDonald spoke about the importance of the team “getting our mindset right” ahead of their clash with Moana.

“It’s been about switching on and getting our mindset right for this weekend,” MacDonald said.

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“One of the hardest challenges in sport is consistency and I’ve been encouraging the boys to find what works for them to ensure they have a ruthless mindset to take on Moana Pasifika this weekend.

“It’s starting to be a pretty congested middle of the points table as the playoff race heats up.

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“We need to continue accumulating points as we’ve done in recent weeks to keep pushing for home advantage in the quarterfinals.”

Flanker Dalton Papali’i will captain the side again this week, when he comes up against roommates and Moana Pasifika stars Ezekiel Lindenmuth and Sam Slade.

“I live with Ezekiel Lindenmuth and Sam Slade from the Moana team so it’s fair to say bragging rights and washing up duties at our house are on the line this weekend!” Papali’i said in a statement.

“We’re good mates and have played together at provincial level so I’m looking forward to locking horns against them in the Super Rugby arena.

“We can’t sit on our hands this week and think it’s just going to happen for us, we have to go at this game and solidify our spot in that top four.

“Moana Pasifika have shown they can score tries from anywhere and when they get a roll on, they can be hard to stop.”

The match is set to kick-off at 7.05pm NZST on Saturday at Auckland’s Eden Park.

Blues team to take on Moana Pasifika

  1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
  2. Kurt Eklund
  3. Marcel Renata
  4. James Tucker
  5. Sam Darry
  6. Akira Ioane
  7. Dalton Papali’i
  8. Cam Suafoa
  9. Taufa Funaki
  10. Harry Plummer
  11. Caleb Clarke
  12. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
  13. Bryce Heem
  14. AJ Lam
  15. Beauden Barrett

Replacements:

  1. Soane Vikena
  2. Joshua Fusitu’a
  3. James Lay
  4. Tom Robinson
  5. Anton Segner
  6. Finlay Christie
  7. Rieko Ioane
  8. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens

Not considered: Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala, Stephen Perofeta, Hoskins Sotutu, Tanielu Telea, Mark Telea, Patrick Tuipulotu

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