Blues axe Tuipulotu over training gaffe

Wed, 07 Jun 2017 05:08
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TEAM UPDATE: The Blues axed lock Patrick Tuipulotu from their match against the British and Irish Lions for disciplinary reasons., raising questions over his All Blacks Test spot.

The Blues said Tuipulotu was pulled from the squad for Wednesday's match after breaking team protocol by turning up late for a training session.

His position on the bench for the Eden Park game will be taken by Jimmy Tupou.

The slip also casts doubt on the 12-Test lock's place in the All Blacks squad for the three-Test series against the Lions, which will be named on Thursday.

Coach Tana Umaga said the team had strict standards regardless of the status of the player or the occasion.

The Blues also confirmed that centre Sonny Bill Williams had been cleared to play against the Lions after previously being bracketed with TJ Faine when the side was first named.

Two-time World Cup winner Williams had been battling a knee injury and missed the Blues Super Rugby win over the Reds in Apia last Friday.

The Blues will be the first Super Rugby franchise to play the British & Irish Lions, in front of a massive crowd at their home ground of Eden Park.

Williams has recovered from a knee injury he suffered against the Chiefs.

His inclusion means TJ Faiane will move to the replacement, with Melani Nanai dropping out of the matchday 23.

The Blues will also lay down the challenge of their own haka which has been composed and choreographed specifically for the team by Whiria Meltzer and Ruka Makiha. Meltzer is well known in rugby circles as a Sevens player of note for North Harbour and now Northland.

The haka is titled He Toa Takitini or the Strength of Many. It talks about the team and their wider community and acknowledges those who have worn the jersey before. The haka also encourages the players as young men to strive for excellence and to never waiver from a challenge.

Blues - revised: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Ihaia West, 23 TJ Faiane.

Date: Wednesday, June 7
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 (08.35 UK & Ireland time; 07.35 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

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