Blues reshuffle line-up for Crusaders clash
Loose-forward Akira Ioane lines up to play his 100th Blues match this Saturday against the Crusaders in Christchurch as the Super Rugby Pacific playoff race starts to intensify.
The Blues are out for retribution after going down 34-28 in the corresponding fixture in Round Four at Eden Park.
The visitors welcome back Ricky Riccitelli, Patrick Tuipulotu, Adrian Choat and Hoskins Sotutu to the pack, while in the backs, Beauden Barrett returns to first-five with Rieko Ioane and Mark Telea reclaiming their starting spots.
Blues Head Coach, Leon MacDonald, saluted Akira Ioane’s contribution to the club as he looked ahead to the trip south.
“I want to congratulate Aki on reaching his 100-game milestone – a serious achievement and testament to the fact he’s kept his fitness and body in good order over many seasons,” said MacDonald.
“He showed his value last weekend against Moana Pasifika and we’ll be looking to him for impact down in Christchurch. His ball playing skills are well-documented and he often finds an offload where others can’t.”
Fans can expect a spectacle befitting of the third and fourth placed teams in the competition, with the stats backing up the attacking pedigree of both teams.
The Blues have made the most line breaks - eight per game - of any team in the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific competition and the Blues and Crusaders are first and third respectively in making attacking entries into the opposition 22.
“The stats suggest we’re going to see an exciting game of rugby and as this playoff race starts to get hot, all teams in that top four mix know the value of home advantage in the first week of the playoffs. A win on Saturday will keep us right in the mix for that top four,” said MacDonald.
Blues Captain Dalton Papalii also acknowledged Ioane’s upcoming milestone and said the team were out to replicate their 2022 win in Christchurch.
“Aki’s a true soldier for us and has been for many years. He’s the type of player you want next to you going into battle and it’s been a privilege to share a changing room with him over the years,” said Papalii.
“We know what we’re walking into down in Christchurch - it’s going to be physical. We know what it takes to win down there, and we can take confidence in the fact we’ve done it before.”
1 Ofa Tuungafasi
2 Ricky Riccitelli
3 Marcel Renata
4 Patrick Tuipulotu
5 Sam Darry
6 Adrian Choat
7 Dalton Papalii
8 Hoskins Sotutu
9 Finlay Christie
10 Beauden Barrett
11 Caleb Clarke
12 Harry Plummer
13 Rieko Ioane
14 Mark Telea
15 Zarn Sullivan
16 Kurt Eklund
17 Jordan Lay
18 James Lay
19 Cam Suafoa
20 Akira Ioane
21 Sam Nock
22 Bryce Heem
23 AJ Lam