The Blues have named a largely unchanged team to head across the Tasman to take on the Waratahs in Newcastle on Saturday in round two of Investec Super Rugby.
Injuries have necessitated some tweaks with the team from the opening game against the Chiefs, with the strong running winger Jordan Hyland in for the injured Rieko Ioane; loose forward Blake Gibson starting for Tony Lamborn; All Black Karl Tu’inukuafe will start at loosehead for Alex Hodgman while Josh Goodhue earns his blazer game starting at lock alongside captain Patrick Tuipulotu.
The rest of the pack is the same that impressed against the Chiefs while there is a strong look to the bench with centurion James Parsons returning from off-season injury, All Black prop Ofa Tuungafasi along with the aggressive and versatile pair of Tom Robinson and Akira Ioane to add impact. The back reserves remain unchanged with Sam Nock, Harry Plummer and Emoni Narawa.
“Injuries are part and parcel of this competition and this sport but gives us the opportunity early in the season to give opportunities to others who have been working very hard on the training field,” said head coach Leon Macdonald.
“We did a lot of things well last week, particularly in the first half, but also some periods in the second half. We will look to consolidate those areas of strength and work on solutions for some of the areas of growth from the game.
“The pack will be the cornerstone and we will look to provide the platform for our backs to show their skills against what will be a very good Waratahs team.
“We are looking forward to playing in a different venue and atmosphere at Newcastle and excited put on an improved overall performance.”
Players not considered because of injury include: Otere Black (rib), Finlay Christie (neck), Gerard Cowley-Tuioti (shoulder), Jared Page (hamstring), Tanielu Tele’a (shoulder), James Tucker (knee), Tony Lamborn (infection), Alex Hodgman (calf), Ray Niuia (knee). Rieko Ioane (hand).
The team is:
1. Karl Tu’inukuafe, 2. Kurt Eklund, 3. Sione Mafileo, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu ©, 5. Josh Goodhue, 6. Dalton Papalii, 7. Blake Gibson, 8. Hoskins Sotutu; 9. Jonathan Ruru, 10. Stephen Perofeta, 11. Mark Telea, 12. TJ Faiane, 13. Joe Marchant, 14. Jordan Hyland, 15. Matt Duffie.
16. James Parsons, 17. Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18. Ofa Tuungafasi, 19. Tom Robinson, 20. Akira Ioane; 21. Sam Nock, 22. Harry Plummer, 23. Emoni Narawa.