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Sonny Bill Williams returns for the Blues for Hurricanes derby match

A number of key All Blacks will return for the Blues for their final match of the season against the Hurricanes in Wellington.

Rieko Ioane and Patrick Tuipulotu will suit up on the wing and at lock after sitting out last week’s match with the Reds due to the All Blacks resting policy. More surprising is the return of Sonny Bill Williams, who has been absent since round seven due to a knee injury.

Ofa Tu’ungafasi will sit out the match and Karl Tu’inukuafe’s absence through illness also continues (though RugbyPass understands that he is back training with the squad), meaning Alex Hodgman and Marcel Renata will flank the experienced James Parsons in the front row.

The halves combination of Augustine Pulu and Otere Black is retained from last weekend, after the Jonathan Ruru/Harry Plummer combination was favoured for most of the season. Former All Black Pulu will make his final appearance before heading off to Japan.

Willimas will partner 20-year-old Tanielu Tele’a in the midfield. TJ Faiane, who has started in every game this year, sits out the match with a hand injury.

Ma’a Nonu, one of the Blues’ best for 2019, will add his energy off the bench. Both Nonu and Williams could be their final games for the Blues.

Ioane will be joined in the back three by the returning Caleb Clarke and the soon departing Melani Nanai.

“Clearly last week was gutting for the whole team but it’s important we put that behind us and focus on this opportunity,” said coach Leon MacDonald. “We played some excellent rugby last week and some not-so-good, so we know that a complete performance is within our grasp.

“We owe it to ourselves, after a season of such hard work and dedication, to enjoy the opportunity to execute like we know we can.”

Blues: Melani Nanai, Caleb Clarke, Tanielu Tele’a, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Otere Black, Augustine Pulu, Akira Ioane, Blake Gibson (c), Dalton Papali’i, Scott Scrafton, Patrick Tuipulotu, Marcel Renata, James Parsons, Alex Hodgman. Reserves: Leni Apisai, Hisa Sasagi, Lua Li, Tom Robinson, Josh Goodhue, Jonathan Ruru, Harry Plummer, Ma’a Nonu.

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Sonny Bill Williams returns for the Blues for Hurricanes derby match