Tupou leads depleted Blues

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 07:53
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TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Blues will be without a number of stars for their Super Rugby opener against the Melbourne Rebels on Thursday.

Players not considered for selection for the Round One clash includes James Parsons, Jerome Kaino, Patrick Tuipulotu, Billy Guyton, Declan O’Connell, Stephen Perofeta and Sonny Bill Williams.

The front five, with only 19 Blues caps between them, have impressed in their pre-season win against the Chiefs last week. While they may have a handful of Blues appearances, two of them are proven performers with prop Pauliasi Manu and new captain Jimmy Tupou boasting 91 Super Rugby appearances between them.

Manu, who returns to the Blues after four years at the Chiefs, anchors a scrum with North Harbour prop Sione Mafileo and Northland captain Matt Moulds, who gets a start after an apprenticeship behind All Blacks Keven Mealamu and Parsons.

Tupou, with 37 appearances for the Crusaders, takes over the reins as captain in his first outing for the Blues, with co-captains Parsons and Kaino not considered for selection this week.

The front five started well against the Chiefs, with coach Tana Umaga looking for a go-forward platform from his pack to provide a foundation for a young backline.

Tupou's co-captain at Counties-Manukau, Augustine Pulu, also makes his Blues debut after 51 caps for the Chiefs and playing for the All Blacks Sevens side last year.

Ihaia West, Piers Francis, Melani Nanai and Matt Duffie were backline regulars last year, while young All Black Rieko Ioane starts at his preferred spot at centre, with Otago's Michael Collins, another to impress in pre-season, making his Super Rugby debut at fullback.

There are three All Blacks in the Blues' reserves in Charlie Faumuina, George Moala and the explosive Rene Ranger, back after a long-term ACL injury last year.

Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Jimmy Tupou, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Matt Moulds, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Sam Nock, 22 George Moala, 23 Rene Ranger

Date: Thursday, February 23
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19.45 (21.45 NZDT; 08.45 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), Will Houston (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 24 November 2017
Ulster v Treviso 19h05 Kingspan Stadium
Leinster v Dragons 19h35 RDS Stadium
Cardiff Blues v Connacht 19h35 Cardiff Arms Park
Newcastle Falcons v Gloucester 19h45 Kingston Park
Sat, 25 November 2017
Leicester Tigers v Worcester Warriors 12h45 Welford Road
Bath v Harlequins 12h45 Recreation Ground
Italy v South Africa 13h00 Rome
Scotland v Australia 14h30 Edinburgh
England v Samoa 15h00 Twickenham
Wales v New Zealand 17h15 Cardiff
Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints 17h30 AJ Bell Stadium
Ireland v Argentina 17h30 Aviva Stadium
France v Japan 19h00 Paris
Sun, 26 November 2017
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors 13h00 Liberty Stadium
Kings v Scarlets 13h00 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Zebre v Munster 13h30 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Saracens v Exeter Chiefs 15h00 Allianz Park
London Irish v Wasps 15h00 Madejski Stadium
Fri, 01 December 2017
Kings v Edinburgh 17h15 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
RESULT SCORE
Fri, 24 November 2017
Cheetahs v Edinburgh 33 | 13
Sun, 19 November 2017
Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins 31 | 17
Leicester Tigers v Sale Sharks 35 | 27
London Irish v Bath 18 | 22
Sat, 18 November 2017
France v South Africa 17 | 18
Scotland v New Zealand 17 | 22
Ireland v Fiji 23 | 20
Wasps v Newcastle Falcons 40 | 10
England v Australia 30 | 6
Wales v Georgia 13 | 6
Italy v Argentina 15 | 31
Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints 30 | 15
Fri, 17 November 2017
Gloucester v Saracens 23 | 17
Tue, 14 November 2017
France XV v New Zealand 23 | 28
Sat, 11 November 2017
France v New Zealand 18 | 38
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Team P W D L Pts
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Force 15 6 0 9 26
Reds 15 4 0 11 21
Waratahs 15 4 0 11 19
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Team P W D L Pts
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Hurricanes 15 12 0 3 58
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Highlanders 15 11 0 4 51
Blues 15 7 1 7 37
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Bulls 15 4 0 11 20
Sunwolves 15 2 0 13 12
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Sharks 15 9 1 5 42
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Kings 15 6 0 9 28