TJ Faiane’s professional career may have hit a few roadblocks along the way, but the young midfielder is now going from strength to strength and will captain the Blues in their first pre-season match of the year, against the Chiefs in Waihi.
Waihi Athletic Rugby Club will host the derby, with the Blues naming a 35-man strong side to compete with their local rivals.
The Blues earned their first regular-season victory over the Chiefs in eight years when they bested their southern neighbours at Eden Park in 2019.
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Despite that unflattering record, the Blues have had the wood over the Chiefs in pre-season matches in recent times, with the Blues winning their three hit-outs in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Faiane, who only made his Super Rugby debut in 2017, won’t be phased by the hoodoo and will run out on Friday knowing he’s already taken charge of a number of his fellow Blues during the last two provincial seasons as captain of Auckland.
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George Moala has transformed nicely at Clermont compared to when he was at the Blues. He seems a bit leaner with more definition and looks skinnier in the face. No surprise he has been in terrific form in the Top 14 in France. ?? #allblacks #top14 #clermontasm #bluesrugby #aucklandrugby #nzrugby #francerugby
The Blues have not yet officially appointed a captain for the season ahead but Blake Gibson and Patrick Tuipulotu have both served that role in the past. Gibson will also start in Friday’s match and therefore looks to have been usurped by Faiane, but Tuipulotu won’t make his return until the first official round of Super Rugby at the earliest. Somewhat ironically, the Blues will also be going up against the Chiefs in that game.
The other area of interest sees Otere Black get the first chance to impress in the 10 jerey. He will contest the first five role with Harry Plummer and Stephen Perofeta (both on the bench), as well as Beauden Barrett, upon his arrival to the Blues in April.
Blues: Matt Duffie, Mark Telea, Tamati Tua, TJ Faiane (c), AJ Lame, Otere Black, Jonathan Ruru, Akira Ioane, Blake Gibson, Waiman Riedlinger-Kapa, James Tucker, Jacob Pierce, Marcel Renata, Kurt Eklund, Alex Hodgman.
Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Tevita Mafileo, Ray Niuia, Luteru Tolai/ Soane Vikena, Sam Caird, Aaron Carroll, Josh Goodhue, Dalton Papalii, Tom Robinson, Tony Lamborn, Hoskins Sotutu, Sam Nock, Lewis Gjaltema, Stephen Perofeta, Jordan Hyland, Harry Plummer, Tanielu Tele’a, Joe Marchant, Emoni Narawa, Zarn Sullivan.
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