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Parsons leads Blues against Highlanders

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Blues Super Rugby head coach Tana Umaga has named his team to play the Highlanders at Eden Park on Friday with James Parsons as captain.

Regular Blues captain Jerome Kaino will sit out this weekend’s Super Rugby opener after being banned for throwing a punch in last week’s Super Rugby warm up so 50 cap Parsons skippers the side.

After last season’s retirements and player movements the Blues will blood some new players while also relying on proven performers who can bring bring plenty of firepower off the bench.

Japan World Cup star Male Sa’u will start at centre alongside All Black, George Moala who was the ITM Cup player of the year in 2015.

Sa’u, the former Counties Manukau midfielder, was impressive in his Blues debut against the Chiefs in the pre-season encounter last week.

Upfront North Harbour prop Sione Mafileo has earned his first start, after two games off the bench late last season, alongside Parsons and Ofa Tu’ungafasi.

In-form loose forward Joe Edwards, who also enjoyed an outstanding ITM Cup competition, will start at No 6 in the absence of Kaino alongside the experienced Steven Luatua and Blake Gibson, a member of the winning New Zealand Under-20 World Cup side.

The Blues welcome back All Black Patrick Tuipulotu, who was outstanding in pre-season, after missing much of the latter part of the season after surgery.

North Harbour captain Bryn Hall has been named at halfback alongside Ihaia West after missing all of the 2015 Super Rugby season with injury.

The bench is full of game-breakers including All Black Charlie Faumuina, Sevens star Akira Ioane, former All Black Rene Ranger and experienced hooker Quentin MacDonald.

The match at Eden Park kicks off at 7.35pm with the curtain-raiser between the Blues and Chiefs Development sides starting at 5.05pm.

Blues

Ofa Tu’ungafasi, James Parsons ©, Sione Mafileo, Patrick Tuipulotu, Josh Bekhuis, Joe Edwards, Blake Gibson, Steven Luatua; Bryn Hall, Ihaia West, Tevita Li, George Moala, Male Sa’u, Melani Nanai, Lolagi Visinia.

Replacements: Quentin MacDonald, Namatahi Waa, Charlie Faumuina, Akira Ioane, Kara Pryor, Billy Guyton, Matt McGahan, Rene Ranger.

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