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Roger Tuivasa-Sheck returns for Blues clash against Crusaders

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Blues star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will return from injury for this week’s blockbuster Super Rugby Pacific clash against the Crusaders in Christchurch.

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Tuivasa-Sheck hasn’t played for the Blues since he injured his shoulder during his side’s round three win over the Chiefs in Auckland at the beginning of last month.

The former NRL star also endured hamstring problems during his injury spell, keeping him sidelined for the Blues’ last five matches.

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However, Tuivasa-Sheck will mark his highly-anticipated return to action at Orangetheory Stadium on Friday after being named on his side’s bench.

The addition of the 28-year-old second-five to the reserves is one of only a handful of changes made to the Blues match day squad by head coach Leon MacDonald following his side’s 25-0 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton last weekend.

One of four new faces on the bench, Tuivasa-Sheck is joined in the reserves by All Blacks prop Nepo Laulala, who returns to action after completing his three-week suspension following his red card against Moana Pasifika late last month.

Laulala takes the place of Marcel Renata on the pine, while Taufa Funaki takes the reserve halfback role from Lisati Milo-Harris.

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The promotion of AJ Lam into the starting side has opened a berth on the bench that either Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens or Zarn Sullivan will fill, with both players slated to start in the No 23 jersey.

The selection of Lam at right wing has forced Mark Telea onto the left wing in one of only two changes to MacDoanld’s starting lineup, with the other being the return of All Blacks halfback Finlay Christie in place of Sam Nock.

In a statement released on Wednesday, MacDonald said the task of taking on the Crusaders in Christchurch in a match that pits New Zealand’s two highest-ranked teams against one another is significant in the context of the season.

“The short week to take on the Crusaders is our next challenge to give an accurate measure on our progress,” MacDonald said. “It does not get any tougher than the Crusaders in Christchurch and we would not want it any other way.”

MacDonald added that his side must improve their discipline if they are to win after they conceded three yellow cards against the Chiefs, reducing them to 13 players at one stage at FMG Stadium Waikato.

“We can’t afford to be down to 13 men against the Crusaders. It’s the same simple game – a good platform to provide go-forward ball; be physical at the collision with and without the ball and play what is in front of us.”

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Kick-off for Friday’s match is scheduled for 7:05pm.

Blues team to play the Crusaders

1. Alex Hodgman
2. Kurt Eklund
3. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
4. Luke Romano
5. Josh Goodhue
6. Tom Robinson
7. Dalton Papalii (c)
8. Hoskins Sotutu
9. Finlay Christie
10. Beauden Barrett
11. Mark Telea
12. Bryce Heem
13. Rieko Ioane
14. AJ Lam
15. Stephen Perofeta

Reserves

16. Ricky Riccitelli
17. Jordan Lay
18. Nepo Laulala
19. James Tucker
20. Adrian Choat
21. Taufa Funaki
22. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
23. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens/Zarn Sullivan

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