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The Blues will look to salvage some pride and build for the trans-Tasman competition when they welcome the Chiefs to this final-round match-up in Auckland. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog from 5:05pm (AEST).
The messaging coming out of both camps has been quite different this week. For the Blues they’ve made it clear that they are not treating this dead rubber as a trial match but instead are going out to win well and build momentum for the next stages of the season.
They’ve made one change up front with Adrian Choat replacing Dalton Papalii and Tom Robinson shifting over to the blindside. Meanwhile, in the backs, Finlay Christie will get a shot at scrumhalf with Bryce Heem and Zarn Sullivan joining the back three.
The Blues have been saying this week that they are playing well in many areas of their game and are close to turning around the losses into wins. Unfortunately the reality is that they have failed to live up to pre-season expectations again and will have to watch on enviously as the Chiefs play in the first final of the season.
Speaking of the Chiefs, there’s an old and new look to their line-up for this match. They’re resting 11 players ahead of the final against the Crusaders, and so with another 12 players injured, there will be six Super Rugby debuts for the club in this game.
That’s the new side of things – on the old side, this match will see the surprise return of Chiefs hero Liam Messam for his 180th cap. He saw the Chiefs’ bat signal in the night sky, put his boxing training on pause and has put the boots back on for one more run out.
This is the battle between pride and desire to impress. Can the wounded Blues get one over on their rivals or will the young talent of the Chiefs – who are trying to earn the right to play in the final next week – get the win?
It should be the Blues, but I’m tipping the Chiefs by five.
Kick-off: 5:05pm (AEST)
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Live stream: Stan Sport
Betting: Blues $1.15, Chiefs $5.50 (odds via PlayUp)
15. Zarn Sullivan, 14. Bryce Heem, 13. Rieko Ioane (co-captain), 12. Tanielu Tele’a, 11. Caleb Clarke, 10. Otere Black, 9. Finlay Christie, 8. Hoskins Sotutu, 7. Adrian Choat, 6. Tom Robinson (co-captain), 5. Sam Darry, 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3. Nepo Laulala, 2. Kurt Eklund, 1. Karl Tu’inukuafe. Replacements: 16. Soane Vikena, 17. Ofa Tuungafasi, 18. Marcel Renata, 19. Josh Goodhue/Taine Plumtree, 20. Akira Ioane, 21. Sam Nock, 22. Harry Plummer, 23. AJ Lam.
15. Kaleb Trask, 14. Bailyn Sullivan, 13. Sean Wainui (captain), 12. Rameka Poihipi, 11. Shaun Stevenson, 10. Bryn Gatland, 9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8. Pita Gus Sowakula, 7. Zane Kapeli, 6. Viliami Taulani, 5. Josh Lord, 4. Samipeni Finau, 3. Sione Mafileo, 2. Bradley Slater, 1. Ollie Norris. Replacements: 16. Nathan Harris, 17. Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18. Joe Apikotoa, 19. Liam Messam, 20. Tom Florence, 21. Xavier Roe, 22. Rivez Reihana, 23. Gideon Wrampling.