We welcome back our All Blacks for Thursday’s final pre-season match against the Hurricanes ahead of the start of the Investec Super Rugby Championship.
The match sponsored by Westie Pies, will be hosted by Mahurangi Rugby Club and North Harbour Rugby Union at the Mahurangi Rugby Club, Warkworth A&P Showgrounds starting at 4pm. The game will also be streamed online via SBI-productions.
Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Jerome Kaino, Rieko Ioane, Sonny Bill Williams and Matt Duffie will start in the match with Patrick Tuipulotu to join in the second half.
Ofa joins Alex Hodgman in the front row with hooker James Parsons returning for his first action of the season, as will Scott Scrafton who starts at lock with Josh Goodhue.
Captain Augustine Pulu starts at halfback inside Bryn Gatland who will guide a powerful backline that includes Sonny Bill, Rieko and Matt. This group will play the first half only with a new combination to play the second half.
Coach Tana Umaga said the starting group had all trained well last week while the Tens team was in Brisbane, and he is pleased to see a number of players back after niggling injuries.
“The experienced players have merged into the squad seamlessly and have worked very hard, and it is also good to see a number of players back training fully after some time out with injuries,” said Tana.
“This is our last hit out before Super Rugby so it is an important game for us to test our systems and our combinations. We will give most of the squad the opportunity to put their hands up for consideration for our first Super game.”
Tana said while it was great to win the Brisbane Global Tens title, his squad have immediately switched their attention to the upcoming Super Rugby season.
“We are excited to transfer the hard work on the practice field, in the gym and in our planning into the game situation.
“As a group we are also excited to support the Mahurangi club and take this game to Warkworth where our North Harbour and Northland fans can more easily come and watch us.”
The Blues starting team is:
1 Alex Hodgman, 2 James Parsons, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 4 Josh Goodhue, 5 Scott Scrafton, 6 Jerome Kaino, 7 Dalton Papalii, 8 Jimmy Tupou; 9 Augustine Pulu ©, 10 Bryn Gatland, 11 Rieko Ioane, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 13 TJ Faiane, 14 Matt Duffie or Jordan Trainor, 15 Melani Nanai.
Second half team: Pauliasi Manu, Leni Apisai, Sione Mafileo, Patrick Tuipulotu, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Glenn Preston, Murphy Taramai, Akira Ioane; Jonathan Ruru, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Jordan Hyland, TJ Faiane, Orbyn Leger, Tamati Tua, Jordan Trainor.
Replacements: Mike Tamoaieta, Ross Wright, Jacob Pierce, Sione Havili, Sam Nock, George Moala.