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)

There are currently no matches being played
Sun, 25 March 2018
Leicester Tigers v Wasps 15h00 Welford Road
Fri, 30 March 2018
Chiefs v Highlanders 06h35 Hamilton
Rebels v Hurricanes 08h45 Melbourne
Scarlets v La Rochelle 17h30 Parc y Scarlets
Sat, 31 March 2018
Blues v Sharks 06h35 Eden Park
Brumbies v Waratahs 08h45 Canberra
Bulls v Stormers 15h15 Loftus Versfeld
Munster v Toulon 15h15 Limerick
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Rebels 5 4 0 1 20
Reds 5 3 0 2 13
Waratahs 4 2 1 1 10
Brumbies 4 2 0 2 8
Sunwolves 5 0 0 5 2
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 5 3 0 2 15
Hurricanes 4 3 0 1 14
Chiefs 4 3 0 1 13
Highlanders 4 3 0 1 13
Blues 4 1 0 3 6
Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 6 4 0 2 19
Stormers 6 3 0 3 13
Sharks 5 1 1 3 9
Jaguares 5 2 0 3 8
Bulls 5 1 0 4 5