Blues

Nucifora keeps faith in his Blues

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Blues coach David Nucifora has kept changes to his starting XV to an absolute minimum as they prepare to face Super 14 rugby rivals the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday, with Isaia Toeava returning from injury to reclaim the centre spot.


His recovery from a shoulder problem means Anthony Tuitavake moves out to the left wing in place of North Harbour team-mate Rudi Wulf, who drops out of the squad.


Toeava is one of two All Black backs of last season who are back in the Blues 22 after missing last weekend’s 17-15 win over the Brumbies in Canberra.


The other is Sam Tuitupou, who has been included on the bench.


Blues coach David Nucifora said the decision to leave Wulf out had not been easy.


“We just thought that would be our best combination for this week,” Nucifora said.


“It was a difficult decision but Rudi has done well in the first couple of weeks and he will be back at some stage.”


Toeava, a Hurricane last season, was also the starting centre in his debut for the Blues in the round one victory over the Crusaders.


While he has been given an early opportunity to establish himself as the Blues’ first-choice number 13, Nucifora said the youngster knew he had competition.


“It depends on how he goes,” the Blues coach said.


“He knows that we’ve got options, a couple of other boys who can play the position quite well.


“We’re starting to build some pressure for positions and that’s contributing to the performances, having a little bit of depth.”


Toeava bolted into the All Blacks in late 2005 as a 19-year-old, but his form in his five Test appearances have been mixed.


Nucifora said he had noticed plenty of development in the Aucklander since he joined up with the Blues in late November.


“I’ve seen an enormous improvement in the way he manages himself on and off the field,” Nucifora said.


“He’s certainly heading in the right direction.”


The Blues, together with the Sharks from South Africa, are the only two teams that have not been defeated so far in the 2007 Super 14.


Blues: 15 George Pisi, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Anthony Tuitavake, 10 Isa Nacewa, 9 David Gibson, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Angus Macdonald, 5 Troy Flavell (captain), 4 Greg Rawlinson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Derren Witcombe, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau
Replacements: 16 Chris Heard, 17 Nick White, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Justin Collins, 20 Steve Devine, 21 Sam Tuitupou, 22 Ben Atiga


Date: Saturday, 17 February
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19.35 (08.35 GMT)
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Touch judges: Christie du Preez (South Africa), Paul Honiss (New Zealand)
Television match official: Gary Wise (New Zealand)


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