Sonny Bill Williams ruled out Chiefs battle
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Blues' Super Rugby season is not off to a good start and the latest news of Sonny Bill Williams just adds new pressure on coach Tana Umaga ahead of their crucial clash against Chiefs.
Sonny Bill-Williams has been ruled out of Friday's New Zealand derby due to a knee injury he sustained during Blues' 34-41 defeat to the Highlanders last weekend.
However, Williams is expected to recover just in time to join is expected to join the squad that heads to South Africa for their fixtures against the Lions and Stormers.
Centre TJ Faiane will take the place of injured Williams in the starting XV. While Melani Nanai gets a start at fullback with Michael Collins to come off the bench.
The other changes see All Black Patrick Tuipulotu, who came off the bench in the narrow loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin last week, get his start at lock with Scott Scrafton, with the experienced Jimmy Tupou back to full fitness to start at loose forward.
All Black Jerome Kaino, who earlier today announced he will finish his distinguished career at the Blues at the end of the season, will come off the bench for his first game of the season after recovering from injury.
Experienced Pauliasi Manu will start at loosehead prop with Alex Hodgman as a reserve.
Coach Tana Umaga said the side had produced a lot of excellent work in the opener against the Highlanders.
"For much of the game we put in some solid performances in most phases of our game, and in that regard, most of the team has been retained," said Umaga.
"Some lack of discipline proved very costly and we have addressed that this week. At the same time, we did a lot of very good things. We take confidence from that going into this game, knowing though that we will need to take a further step up if we are to get the result at home that we and our fans are pretty keen to earn,"
Umaga said the loss of Williams was significant but that TJ Faiane has been impressive in training and brings a different skillset to the game. And he was very pleased that Tuipulotu and Kaino are back in the playing squad.
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Augustine Pulu (captain), 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Murphy Taramai, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Michael Tamoaieta, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Jerome Kaino, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 23 Michael Collins
Date: Friday, March 2
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19:35 local (06:35 GMT)
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendan Pickerill (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)