Francis returns against Waratahs

Francis returns against Waratahs

A virtually unchanged team has been named for the second leg of their Australian tour against the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday.

First-five Piers Francis has been cleared of the wrist injury that ruled him out last weekend’s Super Rugby match against the Brumbies on the day of the game. Francis, who has been selected to play for England in Argentina next month, returns to first-five with Bryn Gatland to come off the bench.

The rest of the side remains unchanged from the line-up that managed a bonus point win over the Brumbies in Canberra.

Coach Tana Umaga said the clash against the Waratahs will be a major battle.

“We are very evenly matched in stats this year in most parts of the game so we are expecting a very hard encounter,” he said.

“They are a quality side across the park with mobile forwards; they are excellent at the breakdown and have some world-class running backs.

“We’ve constantly said that we need to improve week by week and we will definitely need to step up again.”

Umaga said he was pleased with the effort from the forwards against the Brumbies.

“The front five laid the platform from which the rest of the team were able to prosper. They will need to be at their very best again in all facets of the game.”

The team is facing the second of an exhausting six-match run that sees them home against the Cheetahs next Friday ahead of a one-off trek against the Stormers in South Africa, returning to meet the Chiefs and then travelling to Samoa to take on the Reds.

The Blues team is:

1 Pauliasi Manu, 2 James Parsons (c), 3 Charlie Faumuina, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5 Scott Scrafton, 6 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 8 Akira Ioane; 9 Augustine Pulu, 10 Piers Francis, 11 Rieko Ioane, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 13. George Moala, 14 Matt Duffie, 15 Michael Collins.

Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Leighton Price, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Melani Nanai.

Unavailable due to injury: Rene Ranger (ankle), Stephen Perofeta (ankle), Jordon Trainor (shin), Brandon Nansen (wrist/hand), Jerome Kaino (knee), Ihaia West (ankle), Declan O’Donnell (concussion), Patrick Tuipulotu (back), Josh Goodhue (hamstring), Alex Hodgman (calf), Sam Prattley (knee).