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Blues welcome back All Blacks pair into starting side for Highlanders clash as young lock handed debut

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

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The Blues have promoted two of their All Blacks props to their starting side to face the Highlanders at Eden Park on Sunday.


Flexing their depth in the front row position, the Auckland franchise have named Karl Tu’inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi as their starting props.

The pair have swapped places James Lay and fellow All Blacks prop Nepo Laulala, with that duo named to start on the bench.

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They will be accompanied by fellow new front rower Luteru Tolai, who has come into the hooker spot in place of the benched Kurt Eklund.

The only other alteration in the forward pack comes at lock as young Canterbury product Sam Darry replaces Gerard Cowley-Tuoiti to make his Super Rugby Aotearoa debut.

In the backline, meanwhile, super-fit Jonathan Ruru, who won the franchise’s Bronco test during the pre-season with a time of four minutes and 16 seconds, gets his first start at halfback.

Ruru, who impressed in the Blues’ game-of-three-halves clash against the Crusaders by scoring a hat-trick, takes the place of Sam Nock, who has been demoted to the reserves.


He, Eklund, Lay and Laulala will accompany Cowley-Tuioti and electric Bay of Plenty outside back Emoni Narawa as the new faces on the bench.

Blues team to face the Highlanders on Sunday

1. Karl Tu’inukuafe
2. Luteru Tolai
3. Ofa Tuungafasi
4. Patrick Tuipulotu (c)
5. Sam Darry
6. Akira Ioane
7. Dalton Papalii
8. Hoskins Sotutu
9. Jonathan Ruru
10. Otere Black
11. Caleb Clarke
12. Harry Plummer
13. Rieko Ioane
14. Mark Telea
15. Stephen Perofeta


16. Kurt Eklund
17. James Lay
18. Nepo Laulala
19. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti
20. Tom Robinson
21. Sam Nock
22. Tanielu Tele’a
23. Emoni Narawa

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Blues welcome back All Blacks pair into starting side for Highlanders clash as young lock handed debut