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Concussed SBW sidelined for Blues

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 10/05/2017

<span style="font-size:13px;">A concussed Sonny Bill Williams will miss the Blues' Super Rugby match against the Cheetahs but a host of other players return from injury lay-offs.</span> © Dianne Manson/Getty Images A concussed Sonny Bill Williams will miss the Blues' Super Rugby match against the Cheetahs but a host of other players return from injury lay-offs. Concussion has ruled Sonny Bill Williams out of the home match against the Cheetahs but Blues coach Tana Umaga is playing down its severity.

Williams makes way for youngster TJ Faiane in one of four starting changes for Friday's clash with the South African Super Rugby strugglers.

A number of players return from injury, including starting lock Patrick Tuipulotu, but there will be concern for Williams, who left the field late in the first half of last week's 40-33 defeat of the Waratahs in Sydney.

It is an untimely absence for the 33-cap All Black, a strong contender for the Test team to face the British and Irish Lions. The Waratahs clash was just his fourth appearance since shaking off a long-term Achilles injury.

In a statement, Umaga said Williams was improving but it was considered prudent to rest him ahead of a hectic travel schedule over the next month.

It is the fourth appearance this season for Faiane and his first for more than a month.

All Blacks hopeful Tuipulotu has shaken off a month-long back injury and demotes Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, who has played all 10 games this year.

Umaga has also taken the chance to relieve busy outside backs Michael Collins and Matt Duffie, who have started every game.

Melani Nanai gets a rare start at fullback in place of Collins while Declan O'Donnell claims Duffie's right wing in his Blues debut.

A number of bench players are returning from injury.

Flanker Kara Pryor, who played 13 times last season, is primed for his first sighting of 2017.

Prop Alex Hodgman will make his Blues debut while halfback Sam Nock is poised for a first appearance since round one.

First five-eighth Ihaia West has recovered from a four-week ankle complaint.

Boasting a 5-5 record after consecutive wins over Australian teams, the Blues are out to maintain pressure on a Highlanders team who are six points ahead of them in a race for fourth place in the New Zealand Conference.

The Cheetahs slumped to an eighth loss last weekend after shelling three tries in the dying minutes to the Highlanders, going down 45-41 in Bloemfontein.

Blues: Melani Nanai, Declan O'Donnell, George Moala, TJ Faiane, Rieko Ioane, Piers Francis, Augustine Pulu, Akira Ioane, Blake Gibson, Steven Luatua, Scott Scrafton, Patrick Tuipulotu, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons (capt), Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Hame Faiva, Alex Hodgman, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Kara Pryor, Sam Nock, Ihaia West, Michael Collins.

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