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Several All Blacks return for Blues’ pre-season clash with Chiefs

By Finn Morton
Rieko Ioane and Mark Telea of the All Blacks run through drills during a New Zealand training session held at Stade du Parc ahead of their Rugby World Cup France 2023 Final match against South Africa on October 24, 2023 in Rueil-Malmaison, France. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

All Blacks Rieko Ioane, Finlay Christie, Mark Tele’a and Dalton Papali’i will see the field for the first time this pre-season when the Blues take on the Chiefs in Takapuna on Friday.

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With both clubs returning to New Zealand following two-match tours in Japan, the New Zealand rivals will have one last chance to test themselves before the Super Rugby Pacific regular season gets underway next week.

Bryce Heem and AJ Lam are also in line for their first minutes of the year, and the same can be said for playmaker Harry Plummer who will captain the Blues during the first half.

The Blues have named two different teams of 15 to take the field at Onewa Domain on either side of the half-time break, with Plummer leading a side that includes Jordan Lay, Ricky Riccitelli and Cameron Suafoa.

But fans will be eager to see the Blues take the field after the break as a host of All Blacks, including Hoskins Sotutu, Stephen Perofeta and Caleb Clarke, take the field.

“We are pleased with the team’s efforts in Tokyo,” head coach Vern Cotter said in a statement.

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“The boys are starting to piece things together on the park and it’ll be good to give some minutes to hose players who haven’t featured yet ahead of our Round One match against the Drua in Whangarei.

“The Chiefs are a perfect match up this Friday – they were finalists last year and always bring a strong physical element every time they take the park.

“We play the Fijian Drua in Round One, so I want to see a strong performance around our basics against the Chiefs to prepare us for our opening match in Whangarei.”

The Blues have confirmed that the match will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 1 and streamed on NZR+. For those looking to attend the fixture, gates open at 3:00 pm NZT on Friday while the match will get underway an hour later at 4:00 pm.

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Kicks under 14 go free while tickets for adults at Takapuna Rugby Football Club cost $10.

Blues team to take on Chiefs

First half

  1. Jordan Lay, 2. Ricky Riccitelli, 3. PJ Sheck, 4. James Thompson, 5. Ed Annandale, 6. Sam Hainsworth-Fa’aofo, 7. Adrian Choat, 8. Cameron Suafoa, 9. Taufa Funaki, 10. Harry Plummer (c), 11. Kade Banks, 12. Corey Evans, 13. Bryce Heem, 14. AJ Lam, 15. Cole Forbes

Second half

  1. Joshua Fusitu’a, 2. Kurt Eklund, 3. Angus Ta’avao, 4. Laghlan McWhannell, 5. Josh Beehre, 6. Anton Segner, 7. Dalton Papali’i, 8. Hoskins Sotutu, 9. Sam Nock, 10. Stephen Perofeta, 11. Caleb Clarke, 12. Harry Plummer, 13. Rieko Ioane, 14. Mark Tele’a, 15. Zarn Sullivan

Reserves: Soane Vikena, Marcel Renata, Ben Ake, Finlay Christie, Lucas Cashmore, Meihana Grindlay, Alex Harford, Caleb Tangitau

Not available for selection: Akira Ioane (calf), Rob Rush (calf), Sam Darry (neck), Ofa Tu’ungafasi (knee), Patrick Tuipulotu (jaw)

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