Woodcock back for beleaguered Blues

Woodcock back for beleaguered Blues

The Blues have gained the services of one centurion but lost those of another for Friday night’s match against the Hurricanes, with Tony Woodcock making his long awaited return while captain Keven Mealamu has withdrawn due to injury.
It will be Woodcock’s first professional appearance since he scored the match winning try for the All Blacks against the French in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, and he will add plenty of starch to a Blues front row that struggled to match the physicality of the Stormers last week.
However his fellow Blues centurion and All Blacks teammate, captain Keven Mealamu, has failed to overcome a calf strain sustained last week and will watch the match from the sidelines in a cruel blow to an already injury ravaged Blues outfit.
Tom McCartney will replace Mealamu at hooker in one of seven personnel changes to the starting XV.
Promising young lock Liaki Moli will make his Blues debut in place of Filo Paulo, while the suspension of Luke Braid sees Chris Lowrey shift to blindside flanker and Brad Mika make his first start of the season at number 8.
In the absence of Mealamu and Jerome Kaino, Daniel Braid will captain the side from openside flanker.
In the backs, Alby Mathewson starts at halfback as Piri Weepu moves out one position to start at first five-eighths against his former team in place of Gareth Anscombe who drops to the bench.
Rudi Wulf makes a welcome return from injury to replace Sherwin Stowers and David Raikuna has also overcome a hamstring strain to start on the right wing ahead of Ben Lam.
There are also a raft of changes to the reserves bench, with Wider Training Group hooker James Parsons poised to earn his first Blues cap. After missing the last two weeks due to the tragic loss of his father and rugby legend Jock Hobbs, Michael Hobbs is named on the bench.
Unavailable: Jerome Kaino, Luke Braid, Keven Mealamu, Isaia Toeava, George Moala, Rene Ranger and Anthony Boric