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Blues name full-strength squad for Japan pre-season tour

By Ned Lester
The Blues celebrate a try. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The Blues have joined the Chiefs in bringing their full contingent of international stars to Japan for two pre-season fixtures against the best League One sides.

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The Auckland team left for Japan on Wednesday morning ahead of their game against Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath on Saturday. They play the Yokohama Canon Eagles the following weekend.

Three-time All Black Stephen Perofeta said the team couldn’t hit to hit the field again after the summer break.

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“It’s been two months [in pre-season], and we’re itching not to beat each other up anymore and to be able to put it on another team.

“The Japanese, they’ll be seasoned and battle-hardened, so it’s a good time for us to see where we’re at.”

With Beauden Barrett spending the 2024 season abroad, Perofeta is eyeing the N0. 10 jersey, but knows he faces stiff competition from the likes of the ever-improving Zarn Sullivan.

“It’s a massive opportunity for me and anyone fighting for that 10 jersey. It’s never a given, and I know I’ve got to earn it, and I know it is there for the taking.”

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The game offers the first chance to see numerous All Blacks back in action since the Rugby World Cup final, and also the first chance to see the Blues under new head coach Vern Cotter.

The former Fiji head coach is embracing a more player-driven environment, lending to more tactical leadership responsibilities for playmakers, something Perofeta is excited by.

“It’s something I’ve taken on board and it’s a role that I look forward to.”

Coverage for the Cross-Border rugby matchup between the Blues and Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath kicks off at 3:50 on Saturday, February 3rd.

Blues squad to travel to Japan:

Josh Beehre, Adrian Choat, Sam Darry, Kurt Eklund, Joshua Fusitu’a, Akira Ioane, Jordan Lay, Laghlan McWhannell, Dalton Papali’i, Marcel Renata, Ricky Riccitelli,  Rob Rush, Anton Segner, PJ Sheck, Hoskins Sotutu, Cameron Suafoa, Angus Ta’avao, James Thompson, Patrick Tuipulotu (c), Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Soane Vikena; Kade Banks, Lucas Cashmore, Finlay Christie, Caleb Clarke, Corey Evans, Cole Forbes, Taufa Funaki, Leo Gordon, Meihana Grindlay, Rieko Ioane, AJ Lam, Sam Nock, Stephen Perofeta, Harry Plummer, Zarn Sullivan, Caleb Tangitau, Mark Tele’a.

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