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Blues brace for Fijian impact with powerful team named for quarter-final

By Ned Lester
Ricky Riccitelli of the Blues celebrates on full time during the round 12 Super Rugby Pacific match between Blues and Hurricanes at Eden Park, on May 11, 2024, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

The Blues have named a typically physical starting XV for their quarter-final date with the Fijian Drua at Eden Park.

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The team features Harry Plummer at No. 10 with Stephen Perofeta at fullback, as AJ Lam and Rieko Ioane make up the midfield.

Those selections have been jumbled over recent weeks as injury has struck various key personnel but coach Vern Cotter has managed to name his most consistent backline for the first of the knockout stages.

The ever-dangerous duo of Caleb Clake and Mark Tele’a will run out on the wings with Finlay Christie back in his familiar No. 9 jersey.

More familiarity in the forward pack sees Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Ricky Riccitelli and Marcel Renata make up the front row while the one change to the tight five is Josh Beehre starting in the locks for Sam Darry. Captain Patrick Tuipulotu joins Beehre in the second row.

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The lads have plenty of big club games to react to this week after finals in Europe and Japan as well as some huge results in Super Rugby Pacific. We start by dissecting the games in Christchurch and Hamilton before casting an eye over the Champions Cup final.

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The lads have plenty of big club games to react to this week after finals in Europe and Japan as well as some huge results in Super Rugby Pacific. We start by dissecting the games in Christchurch and Hamilton before casting an eye over the Champions Cup final.

Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali’i and Hoskins Sotutu continue their combination as one of the competition’s most imposing loose forward trios.

“There’s no tomorrow if you lose these games so we need to be accurate, disciplined and clear in what we want to achieve against the Drua,” was the message from Vern Cotter that accompanied the team naming.

“We know the Drua will bring a physical presence to the occasion; they always do. This week is about preparing ourselves mentally for a bruising encounter and ensuring we’re in the right headspace come Saturday night,” he said.

Cotter emphasised how much support the team have felt from recent crowds, and called for more of the same in the playoffs.

“A big, loud and passionate crowd really does lift the team,” he said.

“It was great having lots of fans there to welcome us off the bus at Gate A and to hear all 22,000 of them getting behind the team was special.”

“Hopefully our people can return to Eden Park on Saturday night for some finals footy – we’ll be doing everything we can to put on a good show!”

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Blues team to face the Fijian Drua

  1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi

  2. Ricky Riccitelli

  3. Marcel Renata

  4. Patrick Tuipulotu (c)

  5. Josh Beehre

  6. Akira Ioane

  7. Dalton Papali’i

  8. Hoskins Sotutu

  9. Finlay Christie

  10. Harry Plummer

  11. Caleb Clarke

  12. AJ Lam

  13. Rieko Ioane

  14. Mark Tele’a

  15. Stephen Perofeta

    Reserves

  16. Kurt Eklund

  17. Joshua Fusitu’a

  18. Angus Ta’avao

  19. Cameron Suafoa

  20. Adrian Choat

  21. Taufa Funaki

  22. Corey Evans

  23. Cole Forbes

Players not considered: Lucas Cashmore (hamstring), Sam Darry (concussion protocol), Bryce Heem (calf), Jordan Lay (ankle, season), Laghlan McWhannell (concussion protocol), Zarn Sullivan (knee)

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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