Thursday, April 18, 2024

Blues return to Eden Park for Easter clash against the Sharks

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The Blues face their third South African team in as many weeks, this time back on their hallowed home turf at Eden Park against the Sharks on Easter Saturday.

There have been some changes with players lost to injury and others coming back to the squad from Injury.

In the backs, the loss of Sonny Bill Williams means that in-form Rieko Ioane moves in to second five to form a formidable partnership with fellow All Black George Moala.

Inside that is a new starting partnership with the elusive Jonathan Ruru given his chance to start alongside Stephen Perofeta, who has impressed in his two games off the bench since recovering from injury.

All Blacks Ofa Tuungafasi and Matt Duffie have been given one of their two mandated rest games which allows a first Super starts for Jordan Trainor on the right wing and popular North Harbour prop Mike Tamoaieta.

Northland’s Josh Goodhue, another who has recovered from injury and impressed in Development games, has his second game for the Blues at lock for the injured Scott Scrafton.

Coach Umaga said the side is determined to get their season back on track at home.

“We’ve trained well but we can’t give our opponents the sorts of starts we have given this season. We are looking to be a lot more accurate, to protect our own ball much better, get a good platform upfront and be more accurate in defence.

“We had one good game in South Africa but then let ourselves down. At this level of competition, we need to perform for 80 minutes and look to improve with every outing.

“Injuries have cost us some players but we have others coming back. We have some players who have been working really hard in training and for the Development team that have put their hands up and deserve an opportunity.

“We are looking forward to getting back on home territory at Eden Park and keen to produce a strong performance for our fans.”

The team is:

1. Pauliasi Manu, 2. James Parsons ©, 3. Mike Tamoaieta, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu, 5. Josh Goodhue, 6. Jerome Kaino, 7. Murphy Taramai, 8. Akira Ioane; 9. Jonathan Ruru, 10. Stephen Perofeta, 11. Melani Nanai, 12. Rieko Ioane, 13. George Moala, 14. Jordan Trainor,15. Michael Collins.

Reserves: 16. Leni Apisai, 17. Ross Wright, 18. Sione Mafileo, 19. Jimmy Tupou, 20. Kara Pryor, 21. Sam Nock, 22. Bryn Gatland, 23. TJ Faiane

Players not considered because of injury: Otere Black (knee), Blake Gibson (shoulder), Glenn Preston (calf), Matt Moulds (ill), Sonny Bill Williams (hand), Augustine Pulu (foot), Alex Hodgman (arm), Scott Scrafton (leg).


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