Boost for Blues as Sonny Bill returns
Auckland - The Blues have been boosted by the return of All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams and Ofa Tu'ungafasi for Friday's clash against the Hurricanes in Auckland (kick-off 09:35 SA time).
Fresh from re-signing with the Blues for another three years, Tu'ungafasi returns to the front-row, while Williams is back in the starting line-up at inside centre - Tu'ungafasi having missed three games and Williams six.
The other player to return off the injury list is outside back Melani Nanai who is listed in the reserves.
Northland prop Ross Wright, originally a short-term replacement in the pre-season, gets his second start and his ninth cap in a row after a strong performance against the Waratahs, to pair with Tu'ungafasi, leaving Pauliasi Manu and Sione Mafileo as powerful front-row energisers.
In other changes, Murphy Taramai starts at loose forward with Dalton Papali'i ruled out with minor injury and illness.
Williams comes in to the midfield with Orbyn Leger, leaving All Black Rieko Ioane to move to the right wing. Rookie Caleb Clarke, named in the New Zealand U20 side, will enjoy his second start on the left wing with Matt Duffie retained at fullback.
"It is great to have Ofa back, and it is awesome for the team to know we have him for a further three years and Sonny has been fizzing to get back on the field," coach Tana Umaga told the Blues’ official website.
"In the main we have the same team that played well last week. We will take confidence from that but we also understand we need to lift to another level this week for this big challenge."
Matt Duffie, 14 Rieko Ioane, 13 Orbyn Leger, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11
Caleb Clarke, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Augustine Pulu (captain), 8 Akira
Ioane, 7 Murphy Taramai, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4
Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Ross Wright
16 Matt Moulds, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Ben
Nee-Nee/Lyndon Dunshea, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Jonathan Ruru/Sam Nock, 22 Dan
Kirkpatrick, 23 Melani Nanai
Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani
Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Gareth
Evans, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields (captain), 5 Sam Lousi, 4
Vaea Fifita, 3 Jeff To'omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Toby Smith
16 James O'Reilly, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ben May, 19 Michael Fatialofa, 20
Blade Thomson, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Jordie Barrett