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Beauden Barrett to start as Blues prepare for rematch with Highlanders

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

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The Blues have named Beauden Barrett to start at first five for the first time this year as head coach Leon Macdonald has announced six All Blacks in his side to face the Chiefs.

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The All Blacks star was absent from the Blues last appearance against the Highlanders and will replace Stephen Perofeta in the starting side at 10, while Perofeta has been named on the bench in the 23 jersey.

Dalton Papalii will captain the side at openside in a strong back row that includes Hoskins Sotutu, and Tom Robinson while All Black prop Ofa Tuungafasi makes his first start to lead the pack up front alongside Kurt Eklund and Marcel Renata.

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Josh Goodhue returns to pack down in the second row with locking partner James Tucker, who is making his first start in Blues colours.

Aside from the inclusion of Beauden Barrett, the backline is similar to that in the home win over the Highlanders at North Harbour Stadium, with Sam Nock getting his first start of the season, and Zarn Sullivan returns to the starting line-up at fullback.

After halfback Taufa Funaki made his Blues debut against the Highlanders, midfielder Corey Evans has been named in the 22 jersey to make his potential debut this week.

“We are looking to reset again after missing a game last week. We have taken care in how players are returning to play for their best welfare, especially given we have a challenging run of three games in eight days,” said head coach Leon MacDonald.

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“That said, the team is firmly focussed on this game and we are not getting ahead of ourselves.

“We had to fight hard to get the win over the Highlanders two weeks ago, but we can’t afford to have a slow start as we did at North Harbour. The Highlanders are a different team on their home ground, especially with the fast and open game that you get under the roof in Dunedin.

“We are looking for our experienced game-drivers to set the standards but also excited with the opportunity for some of our young players also.”

Blues team to play Highlanders:

1. Ofa Tuungafasi (110 Blues caps)
2. Kurt Eklund (27)
3. Marcel Renata (22)
4. James Tucker (1)
5. Josh Goodhue (40)
6. Tom Robinson (36)
7. Dalton Papalii © (47)
8. Hoskins Sotutu (27)
9. Sam Nock (43)
10. Beauden Barrett (8)
11. Caleb Clarke (30)
12. Bryce Heem (10)
13. Rieko Ioane (77)
14. Mark Telea (28)
15. Zarn Sullivan (9)

Reserves

16. Ricky Riccitelli (2)
17. Jordan Lay (1)
18. Nepo Laulala (15)
19. Sam Darry (8)
20. Adrian Choat (7)
21. Taufa Funaki (1)
22. Corey Evans (0)
23. Stephen Perofeta (34)

Not considered due to injury:
Akira Ioane, Harry Plummer, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Finlay Christie, Luke Romano.

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