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Blues lock Tuipulotu returns on bench

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 28/02/2017
Patrick Tuipulotu. © Hannah Peters/Getty Images Patrick Tuipulotu.

One of the most stressful off-seasons in New Zealand rugby will end on Friday for All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu.

The tough Blues forward has been named on the bench for the second-round match against the Chiefs in Hamilton.

Coach Tana Umaga has decided the time is right to re-introduce Tuipulotu, who tested positive to a banned substance last November and had to wait three months until he was cleared of wrong-doing.

Umaga has made no changes to the starting XV which crushed the Rebels 56-18 in the competition-opener in Melbourne.

However, he has made four bench changes, including the introduction of three All Blacks forwards - Tuipulotu, flanker Jerome Kaino and prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi.

Scott Scrafton, Sam Prattley and Murphy Taramai make way while halfback Billy Guyton joins the reserves in place of the injured Sam Nock.

A fearsome Blues bench features six All Blacks, with prop Charlie Faumuina and powerhouse backs Rene Ranger and George Moala retained in the same roles as last week.

Hat-trick hero in Melbourne Rieko Ioane is named again at centre while lock Jimmy Tupou retains the captaincy as veteran Kaino is eased back.

Tuipulotu's omission last week was due to a lack of preparation caused by his uncertain off-season.

After learning of the positive test, the 24-year-old returned home prematurely from the All Blacks tour for what had been described as "personal reasons".

B-sample testing at a WADA-approved laboratory in Utah three weeks ago found no presence of the unnamed substance.

Tuipulotu spoke of the stress on he and his family over the summer and the difficulty of having to train away from his team-mates.

The North Island derby is a clash of two impressive first-round winners.

The Chiefs beat the Highlanders 24-15 in Dunedin.

Blues: Michael Collins, Matt Duffie, Rieko Ioane, Piers Francis, Melani Nanai, Ihaia West, Augustine Pulu, Akira Ioane, Blake Gibson, Steven Luatua, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Jimmy Tupou (capt), Sione Mafileo, Matt Moulds, Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Hame Faiva, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jerome Kaino, Billy Guyton, George Moala, Rene Ranger.

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