All Black prop Tony Woodcock has been ruled out of Friday’s clash with the Queensland Reds after suffering a calf strain during training yesterday.
The loss of the World Cup winner alongside captain Keven Mealamu who has failed to overcome a similar calf injury is a major setback for the already injury ravaged outfit who have no less than five All Blacks on the sidelines.
“It’s a massive blow for us,” Blues head coach Pat Lam conceded.
“He was outstanding last week and I said to him after the game that he was my player of the day, not just his scrummaging but the physicality he brought around the field. We talked about getting really aggressive, wrestling defence and he was responsible for two or three turnovers throwing his body on the line.
“So it is a big loss but again as I’ve said before that’s all part of the game. You’ve just got to roll with the punches and move on and focus on the game.”
Tevita Mailau will step in to fill the void left by Woodcock in one of four changes to the starting XV.
World Cup winning halfback Piri Weepu has been named to start at halfback in what shapes as a mouth-watering duel between him and Wallabies star Will Genia.
“Every week Piri is making good gains and he came on and was really productive last week against the Highlanders and has earned the chance to start so I’m looking forward to him making a good fist of it,” Lam said.
Benson Stanley and Chris Lowrey have both played every game for the Blues this season and have been given a deserved reprieve on the bench, with Rudi Wulf overcoming a shoulder injury to slot in on the wing and Daniel Braid starting at openside flanker.
Stanley will play his 50th game for the Blues should he make an appearance off the bench.