Blues welcome back Blacks

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Blues welcome back Blacks

The Blues have been buoyed by the return of All Blacks Joe Rokocoko, Jerome Kaino and Tony Woodcock to their starting team to face the Stormers.

Rokocoko and Kaino were on paternity duty back in New Zealand as the team received a 59-26 hiding from the Bulls, while Woodcock was surprisingly left on the bench. The All Blacks prop has also been struggling with an injury niggle this week but has been passed fit.

Taniela Moa and Tasesa Lavea return in the halfbacks for Saturday’s match as Chris Smylie is relegated to the bench while Jimmy Gopperth is out of the 22 altogether.

The only injury concern is Kurtis Haiu, who is bracketed with Chris Lowrey at lock.

Blues – 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Paul Williams, 10 Tasesa Lavea, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Josh Blackie, 6 Justin Collins, 5 Anthony Boric, 4 Kurtis Haiu/Chris Lowrey, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock. Subs: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, Lowrey/Dean Budd, 18 Peter Saili, 19 Chris Smylie, 20 Michael Hobbs, 21 Winston Stanley.

Lauaki fit to face Sharks

Sione Lauaki is one of four changes to the Chiefs’ pack that will take on the Sharks in Hamilton on Saturday.

The front five were labeled a weakness in pre-season and this proved to be true against the Waratahs where their backs had little ball to attack with.

Lauaki has returned from a hamstring injury, while lock Craig Clarke replaces Toby Lynn, hooker Aled de Malmanche comes in for Hika Elliot, and tighthead James McCougan supplants Ben May.

Coach Ian Foster explained the alterations as down to rotation.

“The changes are about injecting fresh energy and enthusiasm into the starting pack following on from two tough away games,” said Foster. “We now also have a reserve bench this week with something to prove.”

At fullback Sosene Anesi replaces Mike Delany.

Chiefs – 15 Sosene Anesi, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Dwayne Sweeney, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard; 8 Sione Lauaki, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 James McGougan, 2 Aled de Malmanche, 1 Sona Taumalolo. Subs: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Ben May, 18 Toby Lynn, 19 Serge Lilo, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Jackson Willison.