Ofa & SBW back in Blues to play Hurricanes

Ofa & SBW back in Blues to play Hurricanes

Fresh from re-signing with the Blues for another three years, prop Ofa Tuungafasi returns to the front row to play the Hurricanes at Eden Park on Friday night.

He is joined by fellow All Black Sonny Bill Williams in making a return to the Blues starting line-up – Tuungafasi having missed three games and Williams six.

The other player to return off the injury list is outside back Melani Nanai who is listed in the reserves.

Northland prop Ross Wright, originally a short-term replacement in the pre-season, gets his second start and his ninth cap in a row after a strong performance against the Waratahs, to pair with Tuungafasi, leaving Pauliasi Manu and Sione Mafileo as powerful front row energisers.

In other changes, Murphy Taramai starts at loose forward with Dalton Papalii spelled with minor injury and illness.

Williams comes in to the midfield with Orbyn Leger, leaving All Black Rieko Ioane to move to the right wing. Rookie Caleb Clarke, named today in the New Zealand Under-20 side, will enjoy his second start on the left wing with Matt Duffie retained at fullback.

“It is great to have Ofa back, and it is awesome for the team to know we have him for a further three years and Sonny has been fizzing to get back on the field,” said coach Tana Umaga.

“In the main we have the same team that played well last week. We will take confidence from that but we also understand we need to lift to another level this week for this big challenge.”

The match at Eden Park kicks off at 7.35pm with gates open from 6pm.

The team is:

15. Matt Duffie, 14. Rieko Ioane, 13. Orbyn Leger, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 11. Caleb Clarke, 10. Stephen Perofeta, 9. Augustine Pulu ©; 8. Akira Ioane, 7. Murphy Taramai, 6. Jerome Kaino, 5. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu, 3. Ofa Tuungafasi, 2. James Parsons, 1. Ross Wright.

Reserves: 16. Matt Moulds, 17. Pauliasi Manu, 18. Sione Mafileo, 19. Ben Nee-Nee, 20. Kara Pryor, 21. Jonathan Ruru or Sam Nock, 22. Dan Kirkpatrick, 23 Melani Nanai.

Not considered because of injury: Otere Black (knee – season), Blake Gibson (shoulder), Glenn Preston (groin, season), Scott Scrafton (leg – season), Matt Johnson (surgery – season), George Moala (chest – season), TJ Faiane (ankle), Tamati Tua (hand), Jimmy Tupou (knee – season), Josh Goodhue (concussion), Isaac Salmon (hand), Dalton Papalii (illness).