Coach Leon MacDonald has selected an experienced and largely unchanged Blues team to host the Crusaders at Eden Park on Sunday.
It has been strengthened with the return of All Black prop Alex Hodgman, and the experienced quartet of lock Josh Goodhue and loose forward Blake Gibson, with midfield leader TJ Faiane and halfback Finlay Christie off the bench. The group has more than 150 Super caps between them.
With two strong wins to open their Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign, coach MacDonald is looking forward to the clash against the Super Rugby standard-bearers, the Crusaders.
“We are only two games into a long season. We are working very hard every day to improve with every game,” said MacDonald. “The Crusaders are the team that all others measure their progress against, so this is that opportunity for us.
“It’s good to have some of our most experienced campaigners back. Josh Goodhue is a high-quality all-round lock, TJ is a key leader in the team, Fin was outstanding for us last year and while it is a blow to lose Dalton this week, it comes at a time when we have Blake back, who is such a strong player at the breakdown.”
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The other significant change is on the right wing where Mark Telea has been spelled after going off with a head injury last week, with his place taken by the experienced Bryce Heem, who only joined the squad two weeks ago after returning from Europe where he has been a key part of the successes at Worcester and Toulon.
“Bryce has slotted in so well and has come back in great shape. He will be a real asset to this team both on and off the field.
“The boys are excited – we always are especially when we can host the Crusaders here at Eden Park which is developing as our fortress. We are looking forward to another great game in front of a big crowd of our fans.”
Blues: Stephen Perofeta, Bryce Heem, Rieko Ioane, Harry Plummer, Caleb Clarke, Otere Black, Jonathan Ruru, Hoskins Sotutu, Blake Gibson, Akira Ioane, Joshua Goodhue, Patrick Tuipulotu, Nepo Laulala, Luteru Tolai, Alex Hodgman. Reserves: Kurt Eklund, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Tom Robinson, Adrian Choat, Finlay Christie, TJ Faiane.
– Blues Rugby
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