It never gets easier when it comes to Super Ruby and the Blues will have to quickly forget the great win last week when they face the Chiefs this Friday.
The Blues have named an unchanged starting XV to take on the Chiefs in round 2 of this years Super Rugby and will want to continue where they left off last week against the Rebels.
A good start in this competition is very important but one need to keep the winning culture to stay in the hunt for the trophy and as team the Blues have been on a upward curve this last year. Alot have been expected from this team for this season and the Chiefs will surely test where they are right now.
The Blues have named six All Blacks, a Maori All Black and a New Zealand U20 player to comprise the reserves bench.
Jimmy Tupou will again lead the Blues in a pack that were solid in set-piece in the win over the Rebels last week. There is a mix of Super experience in prop Pauliasi Manu, up against his former team, Tupou and All Black Steve Luatua who have 156 Super caps between them.
And some enterprising developing stars led by Blake Gibson, Akira Ioane and Gerard Cowley-Tuioti.
The backline, with an average age of just 24 years, took their chances with the front-foot ball to get a further chance, with centre Rieko Ioane bagging a hat-trick of tries and fly-half Ihaia West moving past the 300-point mark for the Blues.
The bench is notable with Patrick Tuipulotu and Jerome Kaino returning for the first time this season to join fellow All Blacks Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Charlie Faumuina, George Moala and Rene Ranger along with Maori All Black Billy Guyton and NZ U20 rep Hame Faiva.
The players not considered for selection because of injury are Alex Hodgman, Sam Nock, Declan O’Donnell, Stephen Perofeta and Sonny Bill Williams.
Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has made three changes to his starting XV as they returned from their win against the Highlanders.
In the forwards, the experienced tight five remains the same for the second consecutive week. A reshuffle in the loose forwards sees Liam Messam move to blindside flanker from number eight, Lachlan Boshier is promoted from the bench to start at seven and Michael Leitch makes his first appearance for 2017 at number eight.
There is just one change in the backs, with Tim Nanai-Williams moving from the bench to start on the right wing.
In the reserves, the front row cover is unchanged, while Taleni Seu is an exciting replacement option in jersey 19 alongside Tom Sanders who could make his first appearance for 2017 in jersey 20. Speedster Toni Pulu moves to the bench to join Jonathan Taumateine and Shaun Stevenson as backs cover.
Rennie and his charges are on a high after they defeated the Highlanders 24-15 in their tournament opener Dunedin last week.
Friday’s fixture is particularly special for Chiefs co-captain Aaron Cruden, with the outstanding fly-half to play in his 100th Super Rugby game.
Cruden’s career started at the Hurricanes who he represented in 25 matches between 2010 and 2011 before moving to the Chiefs in 2012 where he went on to play 74 games.
The remarkable milestone is testament to the dedication, determination and resilience Cruden has exhibited countless times in his 28-years, making him the exceptional leader of Chiefs he is today.
Cruden’s team-mates will be looking to honour his achievement through a match-winning performance in their first home game of the 2017 season.
Prediction: Got that feeling that this will be year for the Blues so Blues by 10 points
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Toni Pulu, 23 Shaun Stevenson
Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Jimmy Tupou (c), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Matt Moulds, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Jerome Kaino, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 George Moala, 23 Rene Ranger
Venue: FMG Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 08:35 local
Vodacom Super Rugby Log
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