Papalii and Sotutu reclaim starting spots as the Blues look to continue form against the Brumbies
With the top two teams from the competition to qualify for the final, the Blues will be chasing victory to remain in the title hunt, with the side focused on an improved performance against a powerful Brumbies line-up.
“We know what is at stake here. We have three tough games to finish this competition – and our focus is firmly on Saturday night,” said coach Leon MacDonald. “We may have got five points last weekend and did a lot of things well but we were not satisfied with aspects of our performance.
“We know we must improve and keep improving if we want to fulfil our goals.”
Coach MacDonald said he is looking for significant improvement in set-piece, defence and discipline against this year’s Super Rugby AU runners-up.
The back line is unchanged from last week, with the players developing good combinations on the back of front-foot ball.
Continued excellent form from Gerard Cowley-Tuioti sees him retain his place at lock in the starting line-up, having played in every game this season. This means team captain Patrick Tuipulotu will come off the bench after returning from injury last week.
The only injury loss is to All Black Ofa Tuungafasi who has been given his first game off this season to nurse continued knee and hand injuries.
There are five up-and-coming New Zealand stars who have featured regularly in the No 8 jersey throughout the past two seasons of Super Rugby – and they're all vying for the opportunity to pack down at the back of the #AllBlacks scrum.
— The XV Rugby (@TheXV) May 26, 2021
The two sides were due to clash in March last year, part of an historic cross-code event with the Warriors-Raiders match but were prevented from doing so as borders closed that week due to COVID-19.
The Brumbies have won six of the last 10 encounters between the two sides dating back to 2008, including twice in Auckland, and it has been four years since the Blues last defeated the Canberra-based franchise. In fact, the competition between the two sides is such that they have each scored exactly 214 points in their last 10 clashes.
The Blues team:
15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 AJ Lam, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson (C), 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Marcel Renata, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Reserves: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Mark Telea.
– Blues Rugby
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