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Blues name young team for final round clash versus Waratahs

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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The Blues have taken the opportunity to mix experience and exciting youth in their line-up for the final round clash against the Waratahs in Sydney in the DHL Super Rugby Pacific competition on Saturday.

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Coach Leon MacDonald said that the match offered an important chance to give key emerging players some invaluable minutes to prepare them should injuries occur in the playoffs. There are eight players named who were not involved in the close win over the Brumbies to line-up against the Waratahs.

“We are in no way disrespecting our opposition. We have a very healthy respect for the Waratahs and believe we have named a team able to perform to our standards against them,” said MacDonald.

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“One of our major strengths this season has been the quality of our young players who have been fronting every week in training. We have had limited chances to see them under pressure in a game situation, and prepare for any potential injuries. We also lost our bye week and we have asked a lot of the guys in recent weeks and they have delivered in spades.”

The team has a proven look to the front five with All Black Nepo Laulala and Samoan international Jordan Lay to start with Ricky Riccitelli in the front row, while Josh Goodhue makes a welcome return from injury to partner Luke Romano in the locks. The centurion has been a talisman this season for the Blues, and is rewarded with the captain’s armband.

There is a youthful zing to the loose forwards with Anton Segner, outstanding against the Brumbies, to partner with Taine Plumtree and Adrian Choat.

The experienced Sam Nock, who moves to within one game of his 50th, starts at halfback with multi-talented Jock McKenzie starting at first-five to lead an exciting and youthful backline of Corey Evans, Tamati Tua, AJ Lam, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens and Zarn Sullivan.

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There is a strong-looking bench including Akira Ioane back from injury, fellow All Black Karl Tu’inukuafe and Maori All Black Marcel Renata, with Nigel Ah Wong, back after another season in Japan, as injury replacement in the backs.

The Blues team to play the Waratahs in Sydney is:

1. Jordan Lay (7 Blues caps)
2. Ricky Riccitelli (8)
3. Nepo Laulala (22)
4. Luke Romano (11) ©
5. Josh Goodhue (43)
6. Anton Segner (6)
7. Adrian Choat (16)
8. Taine Plumtree (3)
9. Sam Nock (48)
10. Jock McKenzie (1)
11. AJ Lam (17)
12. Corey Evans (3)
13. Tamati Tua (2)
14. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens (6)
15. Zarn Sullivan (16)

Reserves
16. Soane Vikena (12)
17. Karl Tu’inukuafe (39)
18. Marcel Renata (27)
19. Sam Darry (15)
20. Cameron Suafoa (2)
21. Akira Ioane (91)
22. Taufa Funaki (5)
23. Nigel Ah-Wong (0)

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Players not considered: Harry Plummer, Rieko Ioane, Caleb Clarke, Ofa Tu’ungsfasi, Tanielu Tele’a.

-Press Release/Blues

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