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Papalii and Sotutu reclaim starting spots as the Blues look to continue form against the Brumbies

By Online Editors
Patrick Tuipulotu, Hoskins Sotutu and Akira Ioane. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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The Blues are under no illusions about the challenge facing them as they prepare to welcome the Brumbies to Eden Park on Saturday night for their round three clash in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.

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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.

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“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.

All Black loose forwards Hoskins Sotutu and Dalton Papalii return to the starting line-up to form a potent back row with in-form Tom Robinson, who retains the captaincy.

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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 coaching staff are looking for a decisive impact from their bench, which will boast four All Blacks in Tuipulotu, Akira Ioane, Nepo Laulala and Alex Hodgman.

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.

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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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Papalii and Sotutu reclaim starting spots as the Blues look to continue form against the Brumbies

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