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Beauden Barrett absent from Blues team to face Melbourne Rebels

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

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Star first-five Beauden Barrett won’t feature for the Blues in this weekend’s Super Rugby Pacific clash against the Melbourne Rebels at Eden Park in Auckland.

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Barrett has been rested as part of his All Blacks rest duties as the Blues target a 10th straight win this season, with young playmaker Stephen Perofeta coming into the starting side in his absence.

The addition of Perofeta to the starting team is one of six changes made by Blues head coach Leon MacDonald, who also welcomes back All Blacks duo Rieko Ioane and Hoskins Sotutu after they missed their side’s win over the Force last week.

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Ioane and Sotutu replace Bryce Heem and Anton Segner at centre and No 8, respectively, while versatile utility forward Tom Robinson slots into the second row alongside James Tucker to form a new lock combo.

The selection of both players means former World Cup-winning All Black Luke Romano and youngster Sam Darry both drop out of the side, with the inclusion of Robinson enables All Blacks flanker Akira Ioane to remain at No 6.

Up front, Manu Samoa international Jordan Lay takes the place of All Blacks loosehead prop Alex Hodgman, while Mark Telea comes back into the starting team at right wing after AJ Lam’s run in the No 14 jersey in Perth.

Lam, Darry and Heem all drop to the bench where they are joined by fellow newbies Soane Vikena, Nepo Laulala and Sam Nock.

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Despite having kept their winning run alive last weekend, MacDonald implored his side to make an improved effort against the Rebels on Friday as they look to stay atop of the Super Rugby Pacific standings.

“We will definitely take the two wins, and there were aspects of both games that were really good. But we need a consistent 80-minute performance. We need to be more accurate, more disciplined and more patient,” MacDonald said via a statement.

“We were never under any illusion about the capability of the Australian teams and they have shown that they are very competitive. The Rebels are no different and we will need to execute with more precision if we want to earn a positive outcome.

“The team is excited to be back home for this game and looking to produce a display that our fans can be proud of, and we hope they will make it a sea of blue at Eden Park.”

Kick-off for Friday’s match is scheduled for 7:05pm NZT.

Blues team to face Melbourne Rebels

1. Jordan Lay
2. Kurt Eklund
3. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
4. James Tucker
5. Tom Robinson
6. Akira Ioane
7. Dalton Papalii (c)
8. Hoskins Sotutu
9. Finlay Christie
10. Stephen Perofeta
11. Caleb Clarke
12. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
13. Rieko Ioane
14. Mark Telea
15. Zarn Sullivan

Reserves:

16. Soane Vikena
17. Karl Tu’inukuafe
18. Nepo Laulala
19. Sam Darry
20. Adrian Choat
21. Sam Nock
22. Bryce Heem
23. AJ Lam

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