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Beauden Barrett runs out for the Blues against the Hurricanes in the second game of Super Rugby Aotearoa’s Round 1. Join The Roar, where we’ll have live scores and a blog from 1:35pm (AEST).
He’s here. Beauden Barrett, the best ten in international rugby union, makes his first appearance for the Blues, where he’ll feature in the next ten games for the Blues.
From a team perspective, it’s a fresh start for all five teams involved. The slate’s wiped clean, previous wins and losses matter not, and to be frank, no-one will even remember the seven rounds of regular Super Rugby played before lockdown struck.
While the Blues won five of seven games in 2020 Super Rugby to find themselves in second place in the NZ conference, just three of those games were against Kiwi rivals. Notably they beat the Hurricanes 24-15, but losses to the Crusaders and Chiefs again put into question their competitiveness within their group.
Eight games in ten weeks against these clubs will make or break the Blues, and how they’re going to cope in these derbies is a far bigger problem than trying to fit Dan Carter and Beauden Barrett into the starting side.
The Hurricanes recovered from a Round 1 slaughtering to win four of their six games, but played only two games against local rivals, with the loss to the Blues offset by a 27-24 victory over the Chiefs in Waikato.
While Carter’s return will steal all the headlines, Ardie Savea makes his first appearance of 2020 for the Hurricanes, just quietly. He’ll be one of six forwards on the Canes’ bench.
In other team news, the visitors have named a solid side, albeit one lacking Jordie Barrett, whose shoulder injury means that Chase Tiatia starts at 15, with Jackson Garden-Bachop taking the reins at ten.
For the Blues, Dan Carter won’t feature in their opening game. Not that it means we’ll see Beauden Barrett at first five. Instead he’ll run out at fullback, with Otere Black taking over those responsibilities at least for the start, with hints that Barrett could slide into flyhalf as the game goes on.
Partnering those tens in the halves will be the in-form Sam Nock. Akira Ioane again misses out, with Hoskins Sotutu, Blake Gibson and Tom Robinson making up the loose.
The Blues have the form, the strength and the home support – with over 37,000 tickets sold as of Friday afternoon – so it makes sense to go with them as favourites.
Make sure to join The Roar for live scores and a blog from 1:35pm (AEST).
Kick-off: 1:35pm (AEST)
Venue: Eden Park
TV (Australia): Fox Sports
Live stream (Australia): Kayo Sports, Foxtel
Odds: Blues $1.50, Hurricanes $2.60
Alex Hodgman, James Parsons, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu (c), Josh Goodhue, Tom Robinson, Blake Gibson, Hoskins Sotutu, Sam Nock, Otere Black, Caleb Clarke, TJ Faiane, Rieko Ioane, Mark Telea, Beauden Barrett.
Reserves: Kurt Eklund, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Marcel Renata, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Dalton Papalii, Finlay Christie, Harry Plummer, Matt Duffie.
Fraser Armstrong, Dane Coles (cc), Tyrel Lomax, James Blackwell, Scott Scrafton, Reed Prinsep, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Gareth Evans, TJ Perenara (cc), Jackson Garden-Bachop, Ben Lam, Ngani Laumape, Vince Aso, Wes Goosen, Chase Tiatia.
Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Tevita Mafileo, Alex Fidow, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Vaea Fifita, Ardie Savea, Jamie Booth, Billy Proctor.