The inclusion of Joe Marchant is the only change to the Blues’ match-day squad for their third-round Super Rugby Aotearoa clash with the Highlanders in Auckland on Saturday.
Coach Leon MacDonald said a number of squad players have pressed hard for inclusion but the current group continued to prove themselves. Therefore he made only one change in the reserves, where Marchant is included in what will be his final match for the Blues before returning to his club, Harlequins, in London.
The England international replaces Matt Duffie in the match 23.
‘The whole squad are training hard, and our current starters are getting tested at every training session, which is what we want,’ MacDonald said.
‘This group of 23 continue to do the business. They are developing well to the style of game we want to play and adapting positively to the new rule emphasis, which will lead to a more exciting and fluid game.
‘It is the last game before our first bye which will give us the opportunity to reset for the next block of games.
‘It is also Joe’s final hit-out with the team. He has been a popular and outstanding member of the team and we will miss him. He has contributed well on and off the field and we are confident he will return as a more complete footballer for the experience when he returns to Harlequins.’
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 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Subs: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tony Lamborn, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Joe Marchant.
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