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Blues make two changes for the Force

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 17: TJ Faiane of the Blues looks on during the round four Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Blues at AMI Stadium on March 17, 2017 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Auckland Super Rugby franchise the Blues have made two changes to the side that beat the Bulls for Saturday’s match against the Force at Eden Park.

Blues coach Tana Umaga has named a largely unchanged line-up for this weekend.

Young flanker Blake Gibson gets a break after a highly physical game against the Bulls, allowing North Harbour loose forward Murphy Taramai with his second start.

Coach Tana Umaga is also trying a new midfield option, with former New Zealand Under-20 player TJ Faiane getting his first Super Rugby start at second five, with George Moala moving out to centre and Rieko Ioane to come off the bench.

“Both Blake and Rieko are young players who have done extremely well in five straight games this year. Blake had a few bumps and bruises after last week and gets a chance to freshen up and Rieko has the opportunity to provide impact off the bench.

“I am excited for TJ who has trained so hard and earned his opportunity to start. It will present us with another option at midfield and the chance for George to play a more expansive role at centre.”

Faiane, a former St Kentigern College star, played for the New Zealand Secondary Schools and the New Zealand Under-20s in 2014 and 2015, when he was also selected for Auckland. He suffered ACL injuries which ruled him out of rugby for much of 2015 and all of 2016 seasons.

Umaga said the team expects a tough challenge from the Western Force, who will be motivated by the speculation that they may be dropped from the Super Rugby competition under the suggested new format.

Stephen Luatua, Sonny Bill Williams, Stephen Perofeta, Alex Hodgman, Declan O’Donnell and Blake Gibson were all unavailable due to injury/suspension.

Blues

1 Pauliasi Manu, 2 James Parsons (c), 3 Charlie Faumuina, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 7 Murphy Taramai, 8 Jerome Kaino; 9 Augustine Pulu, 10 Piers Francis, 11 Melani Nanai, 12 TJ Faiane, 13. George Moala, 14 Matt Duffie, 15 Michael Collins.

Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi or Sam Prattley, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Rieko Ioane.