Beauden Barrett has been selected at fullback for the Blues’ Aotearoa clash against the Hurricanes in Auckland on Saturday.
Barrett, who moved from the Hurricanes to the Blues at the start of this season, missed his new team’s opening rounds of Super Rugby before season was halted due to Covid-19.
The 29-year-old will now play fullback against his former team, the Hurricanes, with Otere Black cracking the nod at flyhalf. However, there is no place for Dan Carter, who has been left out of the match 23.
All Blacks star Rieko Ioane starts at outside centre with TJ Faiane on his inside and Mark Telea and Caleb Clarke on the wings.
Upfront prop Alex Hodgman and Northland lock Josh Goodhue are both fully fit and return to the starting pack that includes All Blacks Ofa Tu’ungafasi and captain Patrick Tuipulotu, with Blues centurion James Parsons at hooker.
The loose forward trio is one of the most competitive selections with Tom Robinson, Blake Gibson and early-season standout Hoskins Sotutu given the start, meaning All Black Dalton Papalii will come off the bench.
‘Beauden has fitted in to our team seamlessly and has come in great shape and with real enthusiasm. This week we felt that he can best help us at 15 being his first game for the Blues with a mindset of graduating into the 10 role,” said coach Leon MacDonald.
‘Otere [Black] was one of our best players earlier in the season and guided us well around the field, while Caleb [Clarke] has been outstanding since returning from the Sevens.’
‘Picking the loose forwards was one of the hardest jobs where we are blessed to have so many quality players.
‘The team is naturally excited. This is a special occasion for us all – and something none of us expected, to be playing so soon and in front of our fans. It will be the same for the Hurricanes and I hope we can produce a real spectacle.
‘Our good form from earlier this year is a bit irrelevant now. That said the team know that if they put in the quality hard work during the week then they can take some confidence into game day to focus on their execution.
‘This is going to be a monumental 10 weeks of local derby battles which will be a battle of attrition, so we will need our whole squad if we are to realise our goal.’
Blues – 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Sam Nock, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Subs: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Gerad Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Matt Duffie.
Feels so good to be home ✊💙
— The Blues (@BluesRugbyTeam) June 12, 2020
Photo: Blues Rugby