The Blues have just one change to their starting line-up to take on the Bulls from South Africa in Saturday’s home game in Investec Super Rugby at QBE Stadium in North Harbour.
All Black Charlie Faumuina is named in the front row in his expected return from injury, although it will be dependent on how he recovers from Thursday’s final training session. He has been bracketed with North Harbour’s Sione Mafileo.
The rest of the starting team is unchanged from last week’s match against the Crusaders.
Coach Tana Umaga said while the team let a winning lead slip late in the game, there were plenty of positives last week.
“We wanted clear progress from the week before in terms of our lineout and our error rate. We got that. The lineout was excellent, we had a stable platform, and we had much less handling mistakes,” Umaga said.
“As a result, off the back of a stable platform we were strong in the first half with three excellent tries. Overall our defence was quite good, but in the second half we could not find a way to stop the rolling maul. We did not help ourselves with a number of penalties which allowed the Crusaders to be a constant threat inside our red zone.
“We are looking for further progress this week – and every week.”
Blake Gibson will play his 18th game for the Blues, moving closer to his Blazer games, while All Black Ofa Tu’ungafasi, who will again come off the bench on Saturday, edges to within three games of his 50th cap for the Blues.
The match at North Harbour coincides with the annual Westie Pies Blues Secondary School 10s Tournament, with 12 teams entered in the boys’ division and seven in the girls.
Play begins at 12 noon with the semifinals and finals of both divisions to be played on the main ground at QBE Stadium from 4.30pm. Both finals will be broadcast live on Sky TV.
The teams competing are, Boys Division: Aorere College, De La Salle High School, Kelston Boys, Mt Albert Grammar, Massey High School, Otahuhu College, Pakuranga College, Pukekohe High School, Rangitoto College, St Pauls College, Westlake Boys, Whangarei High School.
Girls Division: Aorere College, Green Bay High School, Kaipara College, Long Bay College, Otahuhu College, Southern Cross, Tuakau College.
The Blues team is:
1 Pauliasi Manu, 2 James Parsons (C), 3 Charlie Faumuina or Sione Mafileo, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 7 Blake Gibson, 8 Jerome Kaino; 9 Augustine Pulu, 10 Piers Francis, 11 Melani Nanai, 12 George Moala, 13 Rieko Ioane, 14 Matt Duffie, 15 Michael Collins.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi or Sam Prattley, 18 Sione Mafileo or Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Akira Ioane, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Ihaia West, 23 TJ Faiane.
Unavailable due to injury/suspension: Stephen Luatua, Sonny Bill Williams, Stephen Perofeta, Alex Hodgman, Declan O’Donnell.