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Blues new captain returns to starting side for clash with the Chiefs

By Online Editors
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The Blues welcome back their new captain and All Black, Dalton Papalii to the starting line-up for Saturday’s return to Eden Park to take on neighbours the Chiefs in DHL Super Rugby Pacific.

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The team, returning to Auckland on Thursday afternoon from the temporary base in Queenstown, is virtually the same combination that was pipped 33-32 in the first outing against the Hurricanes.

The only changes to the starting line-up see Papalii back to full fitness on the openside flank, and NPC player of the year, Stephen Perofeta to start at fullback.

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The pack has a strong look with Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala, Luke Romano, Hoskins Sotutu and Papalii all having worn the All Black jersey.

The inside back combination of Finlay Christie, Harry Plummer, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Rieko Ioane return along with wingers Caleb Clarke and Mark Telea, who both enjoyed storming games last weekend.

A powerful bench includes Ofa Tuungafasi with a potential return for fellow All Black Beauden Barrett, bracketed on the bench, as he returns to full fitness from a head knock.

“The team is looking forward to returning home to their families, although we have some strict protocols in place to keep as safe as possible from the covid virus,” said head coach Leon MacDonald.

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“For over 70 minutes we were pleased with the rugby that the boys played. On the plus side, it was our first game and we will be better for that run, although the boys clearly understand that the game is played over 80 minutes.

“There were a lot of things we did well, but we will need to keep improving every game, especially with the challenge the Chiefs present with a strong pack and talent across the field.”

The game will be played without crowds, but with a smattering of stakeholders, with kickoff at the earlier time of 4.45pm.

Blues team to play Chiefs: 

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1. Alex Hodgman (43 caps)

2. Kurt Eklund (25)

3. Nepo Laulala (14)

4. Luke Romano (1)

5. Josh Goodhue (39)

6. Tom Robinson (35)

7. Dalton Papalii (45)

8. Hoskins Sotutu (25)

9. Finlay Christie (19)

10. Harry Plummer (45)

11. Caleb Clarke (28)

12. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (1)

13. Rieko Ioane (74)

14. Mark Telea (26)

15. Stephen Perofeta (32)

Reserves:

16. Ricky Riccitelli (1)

17. Ofa Tuungafasi (108)

18. Marcel Renata (20)

19. Sam Darry (5)

20. Adrian Choat (5)

21. Sam Nock (42)

22. Beauden Barrett (7)/Zarn Sullivan (7)

23. AJ Lam (9)

Not considered with injury: Akira Ioane

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