Super Rugby

Ioane and Tuipulotu back for Blues clash with Hurricanes

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Blues Super rugby head coach Leon MacDonald has named All Blacks Rieko Ioane and Patrick Tuipulotu in his team to play the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.

The two return to the Blues team after their All Blacks stand-down last week during which the Blues suffered an agonizing one-point loss against the Reds.

Tuipulotu will join with Scott Scrafton in the middle row while upfront the experienced James Parsons will play his 106th game for the Blues, elevating him to fourth in overall Blues history behind Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and Jerome Kaino.

He will be flanked in the front row by the in-form Alex Hodgman and Marcel Renata, who gets his first start against the team he played for last year. Renata replaces All Black Ofa Tuungafasi, who has his final All Blacks stand-down after some outstanding form in the last month.

The same dynamic backrow starts again in captain Blake Gibson, Dalton Papalii and Akira Ioane, who makes his 35th start in a row, virtually all of them the full 80 minutes. The resilient 23-year-old will earn his 65th cap for the Blues, having played in every game for the past three seasons

Augustine Pulu, who scored two tries and had a third controversially ruled out, is rewarded with another start, his 87th Super cap, and 37th and final game for the Blues before heading to Japan. He is partnered inside first-five Otere Black.

There is a new midfield with Sonny Bill Williams making a return from a knee injury, having last played against the Waratahs in round seven. He will partner 20-year-old Tanielu Tele’a, who has impressed on the wing in his rookie season. Tele’a moves to his more accustomed midfield role alongside Williams, with TJ Faiane, who has started in every game, out with a hand injury.

The Blues back three is reunited with Rieko Ioane playing his 49th for the Blues; Caleb Clarke returns from injury and Melani Nanai, who joins Akira Ioane as the only players to start in every game this year, is at fullback for the final time before he heads to the UK.

It means Ma’a Nonu, who has been such an influential player this year, will add his energy off the bench.

“Clearly last week was gutting for the whole team but it’s important we put that behind us and focus on this opportunity,” said coach Leon MacDonald. “We played some excellent rugby last week and some not-so-good, so we know that a complete performance is within our grasp.

“We owe it to ourselves, after a season of such hard work and dedication, to enjoy the opportunity to execute like we know we can.”

Sione Mafileo (ankle), Stephen Perofeta (pectoral), Jordan Trainor (thigh), Michael Collins (groin), Karl Tu’inukuafe (illness), Sam Nock (hand), Matt Moulds (hand), Jed Brown (hamstring), Jimmy Tupou (calf), TJ Faiane (hand were not considered for selection due to injury.

Blues

1 Alex Hodgman, 2 James Parsons, 3 Marcel Renata, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 5 Scott Scrafton, 6 Dalton Papalii, 7 Blake Gibson (c), 8 Akira Ioane; 9 Augustine Pulu, 10 Otere Black, 11, Rieko Ioane, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 13 Tanielu Tele’a, 14 Caleb Clarke, 15 Melani Nanai.

Replacements : 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Hisa Sasagi, 18 Lua Li, 19 Tom Robinson, 20 Josh Goodhue, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Ma’a Nonu.

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