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All Blacks loose forwards Dalton Papalii and Akira Ioane return to the Blues starting line-up for Saturday’s clash as the only changes from the team that accounted for the Hurricanes 30-20 in the first-round match at Eden Park.
Papalii, who came off the bench last week, starts at No 7 while Ioane, with 68 Blues caps to his credit, comes in at No 6 replacing Blake Gibson and Tom Robinson respectively, who are both unavailable due to injury.
The Blues have the same front five but are bolstered with the return of North Harbour’s Sione Mafileo, one of the standouts earlier in the season, who will earn his 50th cap off the bench.
In-form number 8 Hoskins Sotutu, Papalii and Ioane will form a potent loose forward trio in what should be a pivotal battle at the breakdown.
The backline remains unchanged with Otere Black, who celebrated his blazer game for the Blues in the win over the Hurricanes, remains at first-five with Beauden Barrett again starting at fullback, to form an exciting back four with Rieko Ioane at centre and wings Caleb Clarke and Mark Telea.
The squad ready to visit that lot down State Highway 1.
— The Blues (@BluesRugbyTeam) June 18, 2020
As for the Chiefs, lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi will move from the bench into the starting XV in jersey No. 5 to combine with last week’s debutant Tupou Vaa’i in the only changes from the Chiefs forward pack that lost to the Highlanders 28-27 in Dunedin.
All Blacks halfback Brad Weber will again captain the side in the absence of Chiefs and All Blacks captain Sam Cane.
Weber will combine with experienced first five-eighth Aaron Cruden at No. 10 in the only change from last week’s starting backline, with Bay of Plenty’s Kaleb Trask providing cover on the bench.
The Chiefs reinforcements of prop Reuben O’Neill, loose forward veteran Adam Thomson, rookie Lisati Milo-Harris and electrifying back Solomon Alaimalo will complete an exciting twenty-three.
?? ? | Your Gallagher Chiefs team for the Battle of the North in Hamilton this Saturday!
— Gallagher Chiefs (@ChiefsRugby) June 18, 2020
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