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Francis one of three Blues changes for Crusaders

HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 03: Piers Francis of the Blues is tackled by Aaron Cruden of the Chiefs during the round two Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Rugby Park on March 3, 2017 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Blues head coach Tana Umaga has named a team with three changes and one positional change for Friday’s Super Rugby match against the Crusaders in Christchurch.

Up front, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti comes back in as the starting lock after starting in the first two games, and will partner All Black Patrick Tuipulotu in the second row.

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Jimmy Tupou will move from lock to loose forward, with All Black Jerome Kaino moving to number eight.

In the backs, Piers Francis comes in at first-five eighth and Melani Nanai returns on the left wing.

There is one notable addition in the reserves with former New Zealand Under-20s player TJ Faiane included, with the midfield back potentially to make his Super Rugby debut after being sidelined for the past two seasons with major injury and surgeries.

Head coach Tana Umaga said it is important for the team to make progress this week after last week’s disappointing performance against the Highlanders.

“We are looking for a much more competitive effort at set piece, and with more accuracy in core skills. You cannot be competitive in this competition with the error rate that we committed last week.”

Umaga said that if Faiane gets on the field, that it will be a special moment for a young player who has remained dedicated and with high spirits despite his set-backs over the last two years.


1 Pauliasi Manu, 2 James Parsons (C), 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 7 Blake Gibson, 8 Jerome Kaino, 9 Augustine Pulu, 10 Piers Francis, 11 Melani Nanai, 12 George Moala, 13 Rieko Ioane, 14 Matt Duffie, 15 Michael Collins.

Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Akira Ioane, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Ihaia West, 23 TJ Faiane.