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Big guns ruled out of Blues Chiefs derby

SBW has been ruled out for the Blues clash against the Chiefs.

Friday night’s New Zealand derby between the Blues and Chiefs at Eden Park is looking increasingly in favour of the home side, who welcome back a host of stars while the Chiefs have been blighted by injuries.

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The Blues look placed better than ever to end their 12-game losing streak to New Zealand sides, after the return of All Black loose forward Jerome Kaino, blindside flanker Jimmy Tupou and return to starting side of All Black lock Patrick Tuipulotu despite losing star midfielder Sonny Bill Williams.

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Williams has been ruled out for one week following knee and head knocks against the Highlanders, where he failed to finish the game and hobbled off early with an injury. The precautionary approach with Williams is being taken to ensure he can play against the Lions and Stormers on the South African tour.

TJ Faiane will start at 12 in place of Williams, who has overcome serious injuries himself to revive his rugby career. Head coach Tana Umaga backed Faiane to provide for the team.

“He’s been there before, he’s been captain for Auckland, he’s played a lot in the pre-season. We have great belief in TJ. He’s got a different skillset to Sonny, and probably doesn’t have about 20kg that Sonny does as well, yet he makes up for that with his other attributes. We look forward to seeing those.”

Melani Nanai also replaces Michael Collins at fullback, who takes Nanai’s place on the bench. Age grade star halfback Sam Nock comes onto the bench to back up captain Augustine Pulu.

Meanwhile their neighbours the Chiefs have come off worse for wear following their opening match against the Crusaders.

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The team lost co-captain Charlie Ngatai, lock Dominic Bird, loose forward Mitchell Brown and utility backs Sean Wainui and Marty McKenzie to injury during the match, forcing a ring of changes to the new-look squad.

Shaun Stevensen moves from wing to fullback to cover the loss of Ngaitai, while Sean Wainui will take his place on the wing have passed concussion protocols. Michael Allardice will replace Bird at lock. Mitch Brown is still a possibility to retain his bench spot, with Luke Jacobson named as cover.

Young Brisbane Tens standout Bailyn Sullivan could be in line for a Super Rugby debut after being named on an extended bench with Declan O’Donnell in the utility back role while last year’s New Zealand u20 flyhalf Tiaan Falcon replaces Marty McKenzie as the back up first five-eighth.

Both sides will be desperate to avoid starting the season with two consecutive losses in the New Zealand conference.

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