Blues and Highlanders reveal teams for opening round Kiwi clash
With Richard Buckman out with a neck injury and All Black Malakai Fekitoa now plying his trade in France, new Highlanders head coach Aaron Mauger has opted for Teihorangi Walden and Rob Thompson in the midfield. Matt Faddes is named among the reserves.
Mauger is looking forward to his first real Super Rugby hit out as coach.
“For us this game is an opportunity for the players to put a performance on the park, throughout the preseason we have had a real focus on producing a performance that we and our supporters can be proud of.”
However, the Auckland-based franchise is down to their third choice at first-five-eighth, with Otere Black (ACL) and Stephen Perofeta (hand) out injured. North Harbour’s Bryn Gatland will win his fifth cap for the Blues and start in the No. 10 jersey.
Head coach Tana Umaga addressed the health of his team, acknowledging the Blues “have a few players with longer-term injuries, and some with lesser injuries that could have possibly played if pushed, but this is a long season and player welfare is really important.”
In total, the Blues have eleven players unavailable for selection due to injury.
1. Alex Hodgman, 2. James Parsons, 3. Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5. Scott Scrafton, 6. Glenn Preston, 7. Murphy Taramai, 8. Akira Ioane; 9. Augustine Pulu (C), 10. Bryn Gatland, 11. Rieko Ioane, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 13. George Moala, 14. Matt Duffie, 15. Michael Collins.
Reserves: 16. Leni Apisai, 17. Pauliasi Manu, 18. Michael Tamoaieta, 19. Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Sione Havili/Antonio Kiri Kiri, 21. Jonathan Ruru, 22. Daniel Kirkpatrick, 23. Melani Nanai.
Unavailable: Otere Black (knee), Blake Gibson (shoulder), Matt Moulds (knee), Dalton Papalii (hand), Stephen Perofeta (hand), Kara Pryor (ankle), TJ Faiane (calf), Jerome Kaino (ankle), Isaac Salmon (elbow), Jimmy Tupou (rib), Sione Mafileo (knee).
1. Daniel Leinert-Brown, 2. Ash Dixon (C), 3. Siate Tokolahi, 4. Jackson Hemopo, 5. Tom Franklin, 6. Liam Squire, 7. Dillon Hunt, 8. Luke Whitelock; 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Lima Sopoaga, 11. Tevita Li, 12. Teihorangi Walden, 13. Rob Thompson, 14. Waisake Naholo, 15. Ben Smith (C).
Reserves: 16. Liam Coltman, 17. Aki Seiuli, 18. Tyrel Lomax, 19. Dan Pryor, 20. Elliot Dixon, 21. Kayne Hammington, 22. Fletcher Smith, 23. Matt Faddes.
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