Blues beef up midfield with SBW
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Blues' All Blacks superstar Sonny Bill Williams returns to the starting XV for the Super Rugby match against the Hurricanes on Friday.
Williams returns to the starting XV after missing six Super Rugby matches with a wrist fracture.
The twice World Cup winner broke his wrist in a defeat to the Stormers in mid-March and returns at inside-centre as the Blues look to end a winless streak of 15 matches against New Zealand opponents.
Willimas is joined by fellow All Black prop Ofa Tuungafasi, who has missed three Super Rugby games due to an injury.
The other player to return off the injury list is outside back Melani Nanai who is listed in the reserves.
Northland prop Ross Wright, originally a short-term replacement in the pre-season, gets his second start and his ninth cap in a row after a strong performance against the Waratahs, to pair with Tuungafasi, leaving Pauliasi Manu and Sione Mafileo as powerful front row energisers.
In other changes, Murphy Taramai starts at loose forward with Dalton Papalii spelt with minor injury and illness.
Williams comes into the midfield with Orbyn Leger, leaving All Black Rieko Ioane to move to the right wing. Rookie Caleb Clarke, named today in the New Zealand Under-20 side, will enjoy his second start on the left wing with Matt Duffie retained at fullback.
"It is great to have Ofa back, and it is awesome for the team to know we have him for a further three years and Sonny has been fizzing to get back on the field," said coach Tana Umaga.
"In the main, we have the same team that played well last week. We will take confidence from that but we also understand we need to lift to another level this week for this big challenge,"
Blues: 15 Matt Duffie, 14 Rieko Ioane, 13 Orbyn Leger, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Augustine Pulu (captain), 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Murphy Taramai, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Ross Wright.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Ben Nee-Nee, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Jonathan Ruru/Sam Nock, 22 Dan Kirkpatrick, 23 Melani Nanai.
Date: Friday, May 11
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 (7.35 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Brendon Pickerill & Paul Williams
TMO: Ben Skeen