Luatua ruled out of Brumbies match
Thu, 23 May 2013 07:45
Jackson and Francis have been our form guys
Impressive young flank Steven Luatua has been ruled out of Saturday's must-win match against the Brumbies at Eden Park.
The 22-year-old, who was one of eight Blues players called into the All Blacks wider training group earlier this week, has failed to overcome a neck injury he suffered during last week's loss to the Crusaders.
"He banged up his neck last week and it hasn't freed up," Blues head coach John Kirwan said.
"We felt that he'd be playing at 80 per cent rather than a hundred and we'd like to put the athlete first. I made the decision and he's not very happy about it but I've taken him out of the team.
"He's got no real damage, he's just had a pretty bad knock to the neck and shoulder and will be available for us next week."
As a result Brendon O'Connor is promoted from the bench to start at blindside flank.
Tighthead prop Angus Ta'avao tweaked his knee during training on Tuesday and has been bracketed with Sam Prattley.
A call will be made on Ta'avao's availability later in the week.
The only change to the backline comes at inside centre, where Francis Saili starts ahead of Jackson Willison.
"Jackson and Francis have been our form guys," Kirwan said.
"I think Francis brought a real excitement to the game last week when he came on. We need him to step up with his vision and his verbals helping Noaksey out, looking up and making the right calls but if he can bring his excitement and footwork then we'll be really happy."
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Brendon O'Connor, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao/Sam Prattley, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Kane Barrett, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Jackson Willison.
Date: Saturday, May 25
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jonathon White (New Zealand), Nick Briant (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
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