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Dalton Papalii will be a game time decision as Blues name team to face Crusaders

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

An exciting lineup has been selected to take on the Crusaders in Saturday’s sell-out grand final of the DHL Super Rugby Pacific at Eden Park on Saturday.

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The forwards remain the same as the semi-final win over the Brumbies, which means that openside flanker Adrian Choat, the only player to have been selected for every game this season, will start for his 20th and blazer-game for the Blues.

It also means that All Blacks Ofa Tuungafasi and Karl Tu’inukuafe will come off the bench to embellish a strong forward pack, along with the experienced Luke Romano.

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Season-captain Dalton Papalii, who has been sidelined for two weeks after an appendix operation, is bracketed with James Tucker to come off the bench.

Rieko Ioane returns from injury to take his place at centre to complete an all-All Black quartet with Finlay Christie, captain Beauden Barrett and debutant-in-waiting Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

The experienced Bryce Heem also returns from injury to bolster a strong backline bench.

Coach Leon MacDonald said the team were thrilled that a 43,000 full-house will provide plenty of blue pride for his squad.

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“This is set for a great occasion and is an opportunity to seal an excellent season in front of a full-house at Eden Park. We know what is at stake and we have prepared well.

“That said, it is another game, and we need to buckle down, do the basics right, provide good front-foot ball for our backs, and focus on doing the basics right, with discipline both with and without the ball.”

With a sold-out crowd, organisers encourage fans to plan their travel early with high demand expected on the services, with event trains and buses included with tickets when shown.

The Blues team to play the Crusaders (Blues caps in brackets):

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1. Alex Hodgman (54)
2. Kurt Eklund (37)
3. Nepo Laulala (25)
4. Josh Goodhue (46)
5. Tom Robinson (44)
6. Akira Ioane (94)
7. Adrian Choat (19)
8. Hoskins Sotutu (36)
9. Finlay Christie (30)
10. Beauden Barrett (17)
11. AJ Lam (20)
12. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (11)
13. Rieko Ioane (85)
14. Mark Telea (38)
15. Stephen Perofeta (44)

Reserves
16. Soane Vikena (14)
17. Karl Tu’inukuafe (42)
18. Ofa Tuungafasi (120)
19. Luke Romano (14)
20. Dalton Papalii (55) or James Tucker (11)
21. Sam Nock (50)
22. Bryce Heem (19)
23. Zarn Sullivan (18)

Players not considered: Harry Plummer, Anton Segner, Jordan Lay, Tanielu Tele’a, Caleb Clarke, Corey Evans.

-Press Release/Blues

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