Ioane has showed his resilience in amassing 48 Super games and the memorable win over the Lions, playing in every Super game for the Blues over the last two seasons.
While he plays his 50th, Otere Black has shown his patience to make his long-awaited debut at first five after missing the entire 2018 Super season with injury.
Strong pre-season form has been rewarded with the inclusion of North Harbour’s Sione Mafileo at tighthead prop, Northland’s Josh Goodhue at lock, Auckland captain TJ Faiane in the midfield and the debut of robust loose forward Tom Robinson from Northland.
There will be considerable interest in the inclusion of Ma’a Nonu at centre, returning to the Blues for a third time and for his 161st Super Rugby game, the most capped player in the competition.
With the Rugby World Cup year firmly on the horizon, new coach Leon Macdonald is required to manage the playing minutes of returning of All Blacks with Patrick Tuipulotu to captain the side at lock, exciting loose forward Dalton Papalii and Rieko Ioane on the left wing.
There is an ominous look to the Blues bench that includes All Blacks Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Sonny Bill Williams, along with the experienced Augustine Pulu, Northland captain Matt Moulds and Gerard Cowley-Tuioti along with the exciting Harry Plummer, who is set to make his debut off the bench.
15 Michael Collins, 14 Melani Nanai, 13 Ma’a Nonu, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru; 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu ©, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman. Reserves: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Matt Matich, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Sonny Bill Williams.
Players not considered because of injury include co-captain Blake Gibson (ankle), Stephen Perofeta (pectoral), Leni Apisai (neck), Jed Brown (calf), Ezekiel Lindenmuth (knee), Sam Nock (calf), Jacob Pierce (ankle), Jimmy Tupou (knee), Jordan Trainor (thigh), Matt Duffie (hamstring), Scott Scrafton (knee).
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