No Beauden Barrett as Blues name strong team for first Super Rugby Pacific clash
They take on the Hurricanes, who impressed in their opening loss against the Crusaders, at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday night.
Prop Nepo Laulala, loose forward Hoskins Sotutu, halfback Finlay Christie and centre Rieko Ioane will start with prop Ofa Tuungafasi coming off the bench from the All Blacks who went on the northern tour, while Alex Hodgman, Luke Romano and Caleb Clarke have all worn black.
There is considerable interest in the appearance of two players set to make their Blues debuts, although both are far from rookies.
Romano, with 137 Super Rugby caps for the Crusaders and 32 for the All Blacks, is among the most experienced locks in the competition, while there is excitement in the first Super Rugby showing for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who has amassed 195 appearances in the NRL and 20 caps for New Zealand in Rugby League.
Coach Leon MacDonald said he has been impressed with the efforts both on and off the field from Romano and Tuivasa-Sheck.
“Luke has settled into life here really well and has been an outstanding contributor already, although he has to get through the Thursday training with an injury niggle.
“Likewise Roger has settled in extremely well and fitted into rugby like the professional he is. If we can get some good front-foot ball it will be interesting to see the backline in action.”
The Blues missed the opening clash with Moana Pasifika unable to play, although MacDonald says that will not be an excuse for his side.
“It is something we need to overcome. All teams have come in with a short pre-season and with the obvious challenges in these bubbles,” said MacDonald.
“For us it is about pride in our jersey and our Blues region, overcoming any perceived adversity, and having the confidence to play our game to the standards we have achieved on the training fields.
“The attitude and aptitude have been excellent and it is a matter of taking that form from the training pitch into the game situation.
“We know it will be a super-fast and open game as it always is under the roof at Forsyth Barr.”
Key players missing with injuries include All Blacks Beauden Barrett and captain Dalton Papalii, both recovering from head knocks, and Akira Ioane.
Blues team to play Hurricanes:
1. Alex Hodgman (42 Blues caps)
2. Kurt Eklund (24)
3. Nepo Laulala (13)
4. Josh Goodhue (38)
5. Luke Romano (0)
6. Tom Robinson (34)
7. Adrian Choat (5)
8. Hoskins Sotutu (24)
9. Finlay Christie (18)
10. Harry Plummer (44)
11. Caleb Clarke (27)
12. Roger Tuivasa-Scheck (0)
13. Rieko Ioane (73)
14. Mark Telea (25)
15. Zarn Sullivan (7)
16. Ricky Riccitelli
17. Ofa Tuungafasi (107)
18. Marcel Renata (19)
19. Sam Darry (5)
20. Anton Segner (0)
21. Sam Nock (41)
22. Stephen Perofeta (31)
23. Tanielu Tele’a (13)
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