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All Blacks boost Blues for Reds match

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/05/2017

Six All Blacks have been included in the Blues squad for their Super Rugby clash against the Reds in Apia on Friday.

The All Blacks on show include lock Patrick Tuipulotu, the in-form Steven Luatua and rising star Rieko Ioane.

Exciting midfielder Rene Ranger and captain James Parsons will also start, while prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi will come off the bench in Samoa's first-ever Super Rugby match.

However, the Blues will also be missing several players to niggling injuries after a demanding month.

Coach Tana Umaga has opted to rest Augustine Pulu, Blake Gibson, Matt Duffie and George Moala.

Additionally, Sonny Bill Williams has not recovered sufficiently from the knee injury that forced him off in last week's 16-16 draw with the Chiefs and Charlie Faumuina has tonsillitis.

Ranger, the six-test All Black, missed last year with a serious knee injury with his return this season cut short by a nasty ankle injury.

Loose forward Jimmy Tupou is another returning from injury, after a hamstring tear kept him sidelined him for half the season.

Umaga said playing a home game in Apia was a special occasion.

"We have a significant number of our club who have heritage in Samoa, including myself, and it's a privilege for so many of our team to return home to play in front of friends and family," he said.

Sione Mafileo and a returning Alex Hodgman have been rewarded for their excellent form, joining Parsons, Tupou, Luatua and Kara Pryor in an exciting and mobile loose forward combination.

Youthful Northland pivot Sam Nock makes his first start at halfback to spark a backline where Ioane - with nine tries this year - forms part of a dangerous back three alongside Melani Nanai and Declan O'Donnell.

Blues: Melani Nanai, Declan O'Donnell, Rene Ranger, TJ Faiane, Rieko Ioane, Piers Francis, Sam Nock, Steve Luatua, Kara Pryor, Jimmy Tupou, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sione Mafileo, James Parsons (captain), Alex Hadgman. Reserves: Hame Faiva, Sam Prattley, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Akira Ioane, Murphy Taramai, Billy Guyton, Stephen Perofeta, Jordan Trainor.

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