Kaino returns, Ranger to start

Kaino returns, Ranger to start

The Blues coaches have made six changes for their team to meet the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday night.

Coach Tana Umaga said the Blues has competition for places across most positions and with half of the squad new this season, they are yet to settle on their top line-up.

There are six changes to the team that beat the Highlanders 33-31 in the opening round at Eden Park.

“We are going to need the entire squad throughout the year so it is important they get a taste of Super Rugby from the start,” Umaga said.

“There’s real competition for places as well. Pre-season is one thing, but we need to test some different players and different combinations.

“Also we do not want to get to the situation where we are forced to put players in to roles without them first experiencing it for their sakes and for us as coaches to evaluate their performance.

“We are really comfortable with the changes and like last week, we feel we also have some firepower coming off the bench.”

There are two changes in the forwards with captain Jerome Kaino returning from suspension and Quentin MacDonald switching with James Parsons at hooker.

Billy Guyton and Matt McGahan join forces in a new inside back combination with Rene Ranger earning a start, swapping with Male Sa’u.

Former Melbourne Storm player Matt Duffie makes his debut at fullback with coaches not taking any risks with a niggling injury for Lolagi Visinia.

It also marks the 50th Blues cap for loose forward Steven Luatua, who impressed in the victory over the Highlanders.

The bench again includes All Black Charlie Faumuina and Sevens luminary Akira Ioane.

The team is:

Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Quentin MacDonald, Sione Mafileo, Patrick Tuipulotu, Josh Bekhuis, Jerome Kaino (C), Blake Gibson, Steven Luatua; Billy Guyton, Matt McGahan, Tevita Li, George Moala, Rene Ranger, Melani Nanai, Matt Duffie.

Reserves: James Parsons, Sam Prattley, Charlie Faumuina, Akira Ioane, Kara Pryor, Bryn Hall, Ihaia West, Male Sa’u.

Not considered because of injury: Afa Fa’atau (shin fracture), Tanerau Latimer (calf strain), Ben Lam (knee strain).