On the back of two straight wins, coach Leon MacDonald has resisted any change to his starting line-up for the third round of the Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa against the Highlanders.

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The Blues will host the southerners at Eden Park on Saturday, with a 7.05pm kick-off.

MacDonald said a number of the squad have pressed hard for inclusion but the current group continued to prove themselves on the paddock.

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Auckland Blues winger Caleb Clarke talks about being a part of the back to back wins his team have enjoyed to begin Super Rugby Aotearoa.

The only change comes in the reserves where England international Joe Marchant is included in what will be his final match for the Blues before returning to his Harlequins club in London.

“The whole squad are training hard, and our current starters are getting tested at every training session, which is what we want,” said MacDonald.

“This group of 23 continue to do the business. They are developing well to the style of game we want to play and adapting positively to the new rule emphasis, which will lead to a more exciting and fluid game.

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“It is the last game before our first bye which will give us the opportunity to reset for the next block of games.

“It is also Joe’s final hit-out with the team. He has been a popular and outstanding member of the team and we will miss him. He has contributed well on and off the field and we are confident he will return as a more complete footballer for the experience when he returns to Harlequins.”

MacDonald said that several players should return to play through club rugby in the coming two weeks and be available for selection for the Crusaders match after the bye.

The Blues prevailed over the Highlanders 33-26 at Eden Park last year while the tight battle between the two sides is evidenced with nine of last 17 clashes decided by seven points or less.

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The Highlanders have also made minimal changes for the match, which kicks off at 7:05PM NZT on Saturday evening.

Blues: Beauden Barrett, Mark Telea, Rieko Ioane, TJ Faiane, Caleb Clarke, Otere Black, Sam Nock, Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii, Akira Ioane, Josh Goodhue, Patrick Tuipulotu (c), Ofa Tuungafasi, James Parsons, Alex Hodgman. Reserves: Kurt Eklund, Marcel Renata, Sione Mafileo, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Tony Lamborn, Finlay Christie, Harry Plummer, Joe Marchant.

– Blues Rugby

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