Blues only have room for one All Black


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Blues coach David Nucifora has continued his unique approach of only slowly re-integrating his returning conditioning squad All Blacks.

Only loosehead prop Tony Woodcock makes a starting place for the match against the Chiefs on Saturday in Hamilton, and two other All Blacks are on the bench, namely Keven Mealamu and Ali Williams.

Joe Rokocoko will play club rugby.

The Blues deviate in their approach from the other New Zealand sides, who have all thrust their big guns immediately back onto centre stage.

Things are different in Auckland, where Nucifora has made it clear that his All Blacks will have to fight for their positions. Williams in particular, has the likes of skipper Troy Flavell, Greg Rawlinson and Anthony Boric to contend with, while Mealamu will compete with Derren Witcombe.

Nucifora also made it clear that Woodcock’s inclusion had a lot to do with an injury to Saimone Taumoepeau.

“Saimone hasn’t overcome his calf injury, and we think the Chiefs’ game will be a tough scrummaging one so to have a player of Tony’s ability to come in is tremendous,” Nucifora told the New Zealand Press Association (NZPA).

“He played well in his club rugby game last week and he should be getting used to contact games after that.”

Mealamu’s inclusion only on the bench had nothing to do with the stomach bug he suffered earlier in the week.

“They’re all over that now. Keven will still be important from the bench – it’s a 22-man game.”

Nucifora said Rokocoko still needed the extra match time before he was ready for Super rugby.

“He’s fit but he’s only had 10 minutes of match time this year before he was injured in the warm-up game so the club match will do him good.”

In the other changes Nucifora has rung, Ben Atiga replaces George Pisi at fullback, David Gibson will start at scrum-half instead of Steve Devine, who goes to the bench, and blindside flanker Angus Macdonald makes way for Nick Williams, who comes into number eight, with Jerome Kaino switching to blindside flanker.

Utility back Anthony Tuitavake returns from injury to the replacements bench, while hard-hitting midfielder Sam Tuitupou is preferred on the bench to veteran fly-half David Holwell.

Blues: 15 Ben Atiga, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Isa Nacewa, 9 David Gibson, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Greg Rawlinson, 4 Troy Flavell (c), 3 John Afoa, 2 Derren Witcombe, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Nick White, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Justin Collins, 20 Steve Devine, 21 Sam Tuitupou, 22 Anthony Tuitavake.

Date: Saturday 31 March 2007
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.35 (7.35 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Assessor: Kim Eichmann (New Zealand)


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