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Super Rugby Pacific round 12 kicks off with the Blues taking on a Melbourne Rebels side that has found some recent good form as the teams head to Eden Park, Auckland. Join The Roar for live scores from 5:05pm AEST.
Competition leaders, the Blues will be looking at this clash and not just thinking that it’s a good chance for a bonus point win, but also a great opportunity to put on such a big score against an opponent that the rest of the competition look on with fear.
To do so though they will need to get rid of their recent tendency of letting sides back into the match having established a solid lead. They won’t have Beauden Barrett pulling the strings as the All Black playmaker is rested but Stephen Perofeta will want to jump at the chance for some game time.
The Blues will welcome back All Blacks in both the backs and forwards as Rieko Ioane and Hoskins Sotutu take their places in the starting line up.
After a troubling start to the season, the Rebels have been able to work their way up to eighth position on the ladder and be in contention for some finals rugby. However they have four matches against New Zealand opponents as the regular season concludes and four losses will spoil all their plans.
Unfortunately the Melbourne side are without skipper Michael Wells and will miss his passion and defensive prowess. Matt Phillip will lead the side in Wells’ absence with Rob Leota starting at number eight. The Wallaby back rower will be in for a ferocious battle against his Blues counterparts and must find a way to get his side over the gain line when they have the ball.
Joe Powell starts at scrum half joining up with Carter Gordon in the halves with Junior Wallaby centre Lukas Ripley lining up against the scary partnership of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Rieko Ioane for the Blues.
Curiously the Rebels have won at Eden Park before but it was four years ago now. It really doesn’t look like they’ll get another one today but expect them to keep fighting until the end against a strong Blues side.
Blues (1-15): Jordan Lay, Kurt Eklund, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, James Tucker, Tom Robinson, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii (c), Hoskins Sotutu, Finlay Christie, Stephen Perofeta, Caleb Clarke, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Rieko Ioane, Mark Telea, Zarn Sullivan.
Reserves: Soane Vikena, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Nepo Laulala, Sam Darry, Adrian Choat, Sam Nock, Bryce Heem, AJ Lam.
Rebels (1-15): Matt Gibbon, James Hanson, Pone Fa’amausili, Matt Philip (c), Josh Canham, Brad Wilkin, Richard Hardwick, Rob Leota, Joe Powell, Carter Gordon, George Worth, Stacey Ili, Lukas Ripley, Andrew Kellaway, Reece Hodge.
Reserves: Efi Ma’afu, Cameron Orr, Cabous Eloff, Daniel Maiava, Tamati Ioane, Moses Sorovi, Nick Jooste, Glen Vaihu.