Super Rugby preview: Blues v Highlanders
Last Updated: 05/04/13 8:09am
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan has made two changes to his starting XV for Friday's clash with the Highlanders at Eden Park.
Tasman prop Tim Perry will start at loosehead in place of Tom McCartney, while Jackson Willison replaces Francis Saili at inside centre.
The Blues will be bolstered by World Cup-winning All Black hooker Keven Mealamu who is named on the bench and will make his first appearance of the season after taking an extended leave period.
Despite boasting a team brimming with All Blacks and x-factor, the Highlanders have been unable to record a win in five matches this season and sit at the bottom of the Super Rugby ladder.
Boss Jamie Joseph has also made two changes to his run-on team with Jamie Mackintosh making his first start of the season, at loosehead prop, replacing Tony Woodcock who has suffered a hamstring strain.
Former All Black number eight Mose Tuiali'i, who has joined the Highlanders as injury cover for Nasi Manu, will also start with Elliot Dixon returning to the replacements bench.
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (c), 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Francis Saili.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Buxton Popoalii, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Mose Tuiali'i, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Chris King, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ma'afu Fia, 18 TJ Ioane, 19 Elliot Dixon, 20 Fumiaki Tanaka, 21 Lima Sopoaga, 22 Phil Burleigh.
What they said
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan...
"We've obviously got Keven coming back so Quentin is a bit unlucky. We think Tim played really well against the Bulls so we want to have another look at him and Jacko just adds bit more balance to the midfield.
"We think Francis has been playing well but he's been playing a lot so we want him to take some time out and reassess and then come off the bench for us."
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