Unchanged starting line-up for Blues back home at Eden Park

On the back of two straight wins, coach Leon MacDonald has resisted any change to his starting line-up for the third round of the Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa against the Highlanders.

The Blues will host the southerners at Eden Park on Saturday, with a 7.05pm kick-off.

MacDonald said a number of the squad have pressed hard for inclusion but the current group continued to prove themselves on the paddock.

The only change comes in the reserves where England international Joe Marchant is included in what will be his final match for the Blues before returning to his Harlequins club in London.

“The whole squad are training hard, and our current starters are getting tested at every training session, which is what we want,” said MacDonald.

“This group of 23 continue to do the business. They are developing well to the style of game we want to play and adapting positively to the new rule emphasis, which will lead to a more exciting and fluid game.

“It is the last game before our first bye which will give us the opportunity to reset for the next block of games.

“It is also Joe’s final hit-out with the team. He has been a popular and outstanding member of the team and we will miss him. He has contributed well on and off the field and we are confident he will return as a more complete footballer for the experience when he returns to Harlequins.”

MacDonald said that several players should return to play through club rugby in the coming two weeks and be available for selection for the Crusaders match after the bye.

The Blues prevailed over the Highlanders 33-26 at Eden Park last year while the tight battle between the two sides is evidenced with nine of last 17 clashes decided by seven points or less.

Fans are reminded that travel by AT trains and buses is included in your ticket, but that you need to plan with plenty of time as the Western Line trains (including Britomart to Eden Park) and some parts of the Eastern Line are not running. While buses will replace trains, these services will be limited. For more information on getting to the game: https://at.govt.nz/bus-train-ferry/events/investec-super-rugby-aotearoa/

The Blues team is: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Sam Nock; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu ©, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.

Reserves: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tony Lamborn, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Joe Marchant.

Players not considered with injury: Karl Tu’inukuafe (leg strain), Jack Heighton (quad), Jared Page (pec), Stephen Perofeta (fractured foot), Blake Gibson (hamstring), Tom Robinson (knee). Season ending: Ray Niuia, James Tucker, Tanielu Tele’a.

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