Blues rest Gibson
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Blues have made two changes from the starting line-up that beat the Bulls last weekend for their clash against the Western Force at Eden Park on Saturday.
Young flank Blake Gibson gets a break after a highly physical game against the Bulls, allowing North Harbour loose forward Murphy Taramai with his second start.
Coach Tana Umaga is also trying a new midfield option, with former New Zealand Under-20 player TJ Faiane getting his first Super Rugby start at inside centre, with George Moala moving out to No.13 and Rieko Ioane to come off the bench.
"Both Blake and Rieko are young players who have done extremely well in five straight games this year," said Umaga. Blake had a few bumps and bruises after last week and gets a chance to freshen up and Rieko has the opportunity to provide impact off the bench.
"I am excited for TJ who has trained so hard and earned his opportunity to start. It will present us with another option at midfield and the chance for George to play a more expansive role at centre."
Faiane, a former St Kentigern College star, played for the New Zealand Secondary Schools and the New Zealand Under-20s in 2014 and 2015, when he was also selected for Auckland. He suffered ACL injuries which ruled him out of rugby for much of 2015 and all of 2016 seasons.
Umaga said the team expects a tough challenge from the Western Force, who will be motivated by the speculation that they may be dropped from the Super Rugby competition under the suggested new format.
Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Murphy Taramai, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi or Sam Prattley, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Rieko Ioane.
Date: Saturday, April 1
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 17.15 (12.15 AWST; 04.15 GMT)
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant referees: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)