Blues name settled side for Brumbies clash
DHL Super Rugby Pacific hits Melbourne this weekend with the Blues gearing up to take on the Brumbies on Sunday, March 5 at AAMI Park in the penultimate game of Super Round which sees all teams converge on Melbourne for a festival weekend of rugby.
Despite being played in Australia, the game is considered a home game for the Blues, who are looking to build on their impressive win over the Highlanders last week. Despite being played in Australia, the game is considered a home game for the Blues, who are looking to build on their impressive win over the Highlanders last week. However, the team will be without the services of Akira Ioane, who suffered a knee injury last Saturday and will be spending a period on the sideline.
The starting backline that impressed against the Highlanders remains the same with pivot Beauden Barrett set to play his Blues Blazer game acknowledging 20 appearances for the club. Tom Robinson's return to the squad will provide the Blues added firepower with the versatile Robinson bracketed alongside flanker Adrian Choat.
Blues Head Coach, Leon MacDonald, said he felt for Ioane, but is confident that the team has the depth to cover his absence.
“You never want to see players get injured and it’s an unfortunate blow for Akira this early in the season, but he’s working with our medical staff on a rehab programme to get him back and fit,” said MacDonald.
“It’s great to have several options at loose forward and we’ll make a call on Tom and Adrian closer to Sunday with both players making the trip to Melbourne.”
MacDonald also highlighted the changes in the front row, with Joshua Fusitu'a getting his first start in a Blues jersey, Ricky Riccitelli starting at hooker and James Lay making his return after a rough run with injuries.
“All three front rowers deserve their starts this week which double as an opportunity to put their hand up in a hotly contested area of the park for us – I’m looking forward to seeing how this front row gel on Sunday,” said MacDonald.
Blues Captain, Dalton Papalii, is equally excited for the return of Lay and the opportunity for Fusitu'a to make his mark.
“I’m stoked to see Jimmy Lay back in blue after a long lay-off with injuries. He’s a superb club man and a great guy to have around the group, so to see him run out on Sunday will be reward for all his hard work in getting back to playing fitness,” said Papalii.
Papalii acknowledged the challenge the Brumbies present and emphasised the team's focus on constant improvement.
“You can’t stand still in this competition, otherwise teams will run straight past you. We know the Brumbies will bring a physical, confronting game and we have been preparing all week to meet that challenge,” he said.
He also praised the Super Round concept, noting that having all the Super Rugby Pacific teams in one city will create a cool vibe around Melbourne.
“There’s plenty on offer for the fans this weekend so I’m hoping a few of our own can make the trip across the Tasman and get behind us.”
1. Joshua Fusitu’a
2. Ricky Riccitelli
3. James Lay
4. Patrick Tuipulotu
5. Cameron Suafoa
6. Tom Robinson (Adrian Choat)
7. Dalton Papalii
8. Hoskins Sotutu
9. Finlay Christie
10. Beauden Barrett
11. Caleb Clarke
12. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
13. Rieko Ioane
14. Mark Telea
15. Stephen Perofeta
Reserves: 16. Kurt Eklund 17. Ofa Tuungafasi 18. Marcel Renata 19. James Tucker 20. Adrian Choat (Anton Segner) 21. Taufa Funaki 22. Bryce Heem 23. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens