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The Blues will look to get their season back on track and rid themselves of their poor decision making as they take on the Hurricanes in Auckland. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of what promises to be a thrilling match starting from 16:55 AEDT on Saturday.
Ahead of the season, there was plenty of talk about how the Blues could be a genuine threat to the Crusaders and were, at worst, the second-best team in New Zealand. After the first five rounds however, they have won two, lost two and the season is in the balance.
After last week’s surprising loss to the Chiefs, Leon MacDonald made seven changes. Captain Patrick Tuipulotu is out through injury and is replaced by youngster Sam Derry. The rookie will be joined in the second row by Gerard Cowley-Tuioti whilst in the front row Karl Tu’inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi will get the chance to start the match.
After a good performance last week, Tom Robinson gets to start in the back row and out of form Akira Ioane will be on the bench. In the backs, Sam Nock will start at fly-half with TJ Faiane outside him at inside-centre.
There has been a lot of talk about the six kickable penalties that the Blues turned down in the hunt for tries against the Chiefs. While it’s easy to criticise those on the field from the comfort of a keyboard, some of those six decisions were really poor and the Blues will want to be much more in control this week.
For the Hurricanes, this is also a crucial game. They have only won one match so far but that victory came last week so another one this weekend could start to feel like some proper momentum.
This week’s Canes side will see some exciting power on the wings with Julian Savea joining Salesi Rayasi so look forward to the Canes trying to turn the Blues and give their big speedsters something to chase down.
There are only two other changes to the Canes starting line up with James Blackwell joining the second row and Fraser Armstrong replacing Xavier Numia in the front row.
This could be a really tight game and should be an exciting battle. The Canes pack, and especially their back row were impressive against the Highlanders last week and if they can repeat that performance then they will set up their backs to take this one.
Hurricanes by 7.
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog starting from 16:55 AEDT on Saturday.
Kick-off: 5:05pm (AEST)
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Live stream: Stan Sport
Betting: Blues $1.30, Hurricanes $3.50 (odds via PlayUp)
1. Karl Tu’inukuafe, 2. Luteru Tolai, 3. Ofa Tuungafasi, 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5. Sam Darry, 6. Tom Robinson (c), 7. Dalton Papalii, 8. Hoskins Sotutu, 9. Sam Nock, 10. Otere Black, 11. Caleb Clarke, 12. TJ Faiane, 13. Rieko Ioane, 14. Mark Telea, 15. Stephen Perofeta
Bench: 16. Leni Apisai, 17. Alex Hodgman, 18. Nepo Laulala, 19. Josh Goodhue, 20. Akira Ioane, 21. Jonathan Ruru, 22. Harry Plummer, 23. AJ Lam
1. Fraser Armstrong, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Tyrel Lomax, 4. James Blackwell, 5. Scott Scrafton, 6. Reed Prinsep, 7. Du’Plessis Kirifi, 8. Ardie Savea, 9. Luke Campbell, 10. Orbyn Leger, 11. Salesi Rayasi, 12. Ngani Laumape, 13. Billy Proctor, 14. Julian Savea, 15. Jordie Barrett
Bench: 16. Ricky Riccitelli, 17. Xavier Numia, 18. Tevita Mafileo, 19. Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20. Devan Flanders, 21. Jonathan Taumateine, 22. Peter Umaga-Jensen, 23. Wes Goosen