Blues re-call All Blacks trio for Super Rugby Trans-Tasman clash against Reds in Brisbane
Tighthead prop Ofa Tuungafasi, lock Patrick Tuipulotu and No 8 Akira Ioane have all been named in Leon MacDonald’s starting XV to take on the Queenslanders as they continue their charge towards a place in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final.
The return of Tuipulotu into the starting side also means a change in captaincy, as relieves blindside flanker Tom Robinson of the leadership duties.
Robinson had assumed the captaincy after Tuipulotu missed a succession of games due to a neck/shoulder injury picked up against the Chiefs in round five of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Tuipulotu returned to the match days squads in the last two Blues matches, coming off the bench in their wins over the Waratahs and Brumbies, but the 28-year-old has now been thrust back into the second row alongside the in-form Gerard Cowley-Tuioti.
The inclusions of Tuipulotu, Tuungafasi and Ioane represent three of four changes made to the starting side by MacDonald, as Mark Telea swaps into the No 11 jersey in place of AJ Lam, who drops to the bench.
Lam, who crossed for four tries in his last four outings for the Blues, is one of three new faces in the reserves, with young lock Jacob Pierce coming onto the pine to fill the void left by Tuipulotu.
Hoskins Sotutu, meanwhile, will don the No 20 jersey after making way for Ioane at the back of the scrum.
A fourth consecutive bonus point win for the Blues this weekend would likely see the Auckland-based franchise remain at the summit of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman table with one more round-robin match to play.
Should they remain in the competition’s top two by the end of next weekend, the Blues will play in their first final since 2003 and their first play-off match in 10 years.
The Reds, meanwhile, are looking to back up their efforts from last weekend when they became the first Australian team to defeat a New Zealand side this year when they toppled the Chiefs 40-34 in Townsville.
Kick-off for this weekend’s clash is scheduled for 7:45pm local time [9:45pm NZT].
Blues team to play the Reds
1. Karl Tu’inukuafe
2. Kurt Eklund
3. Ofa Tuungafasi
4. Patrick Tuipulotu (c)
5. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti
6. Tom Robinson
7. Dalton Papali’i
8. Akira Ioane
9. Finlay Christie
10. Otere Black
11. Mark Telea
12. TJ Faiane
13. Rieko Ioane
14. Bryce Heem
15. Zarn Sullivan
16. Soane Vikena
17. Alex Hodgman
18. Nepo Laulala
19. Jacob Pierce
20. Hoskins Sotutu
21. Jonathan Ruru
22. Harry Plummer
23. AJ Lam
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