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Blues unchanged for Chiefs

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 23: Rieko Ioane of the Blues makes a break to run in a try during the round one Super Rugby match between the Melbourne Rebels and the Auckland Blues at AAMI Park on February 23, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)

Auckland’s Blues have retained the team that beat the Rebels for this weekend’s Super Rugby match against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday.

While Blues head coach Tana Umaga has kept his starting side unchanged he has included six All Blacks, a Maori All Black and a New Zealand Under-20s player on the bench.

Pukekohe’s Jimmy Tupou will again lead the Blues in a pack that were solid in set-piece in the win over the Rebels last week.

There is a mix of Super experience in prop Pauliasi Manu, up against his former club, Tupou and All Black Steve Luatua who have 156 Super caps between them. And some enterprising developing stars led by Blake Gibson, Akira Ioane and Gerard Cowley-Tuioti.

The backline, with an average age of just 24 years, took their chances with the front-foot ball to get a further chance, with centre Rieko Ioane bagging a hat-trick of tries and first five Ihaia West moving past the 300 point mark for the Blues.

The bench is notable with Patrick Tuipulotu and Jerome Kaino returning for the first time this season to join fellow All Blacks Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Charlie Faumuina, George Moala and Rene Ranger along with Maori All Black Billy Guyton and NZ Under-20s rep Hame Faiva.

The players not considered for selection because of injury are Alex Hodgman, Sam Nock, Declan O’Donnell, Stephen Perofeta and Sonny Bill Williams.

Blues

Pauliasi Manu, Matt Moulds, Sione Mafileo, Jimmy Tupou (C), Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Steven Luatua, Blake Gibson, Akira Ioane; Augustine Pulu, Ihaia West, Melani Nanai, Piers Francis, Rieko Ioane, Matt Duffie, Michael Collins.

Replacements: Hame Faiva, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jerome Kaino, Billy Guyton, George Moala, Rene Ranger.