Blues v Reds

  • All Blacks bolster team for historic match in Samoa

    Six All Blacks are included in the Blues squad for their historic clash against the Reds in Apia on Friday night.

    It will be the first Investec Super Rugby match in Samoa, and the first major game under lights at Apia Park.

    The All Blacks on show include lock Patrick Tuipulotu, the in-form Steven Luatua, captain James Parsons, rising-star Rieko Ioane, and exciting midfielder Rene Ranger, while prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi will come off the bench.

    The Blues welcome back two key experienced players in Ranger and loose forward/lock Jimmy Tupou.

    Ranger, the six-test All Black, missed last year with an ACL injury and his return this season has been cut short with a serious ankle injury.

    Meanwhile, Tupou, who played 37 times for the Crusaders before returning home last year, was a key part of the side both on and off the field before a hamstring injury sidelined him for half of the season.

    Both return after strong showings in club rugby.

    “We know this is a special game and a special occasion for the Blues to bring a home game to Samoa,” said Blues coach Tana Umaga. “We have a significant number of our club who have heritage in Samoa, including myself, and it is a privilege for so many of our team to return home to play in front of friends and family.

    “We hope the Blues fans in Samoa will come and support us on Friday. We saw a full house in Fiji recently for the Super game there and so it would be fantastic to see a packed stadium at Apia Park this week.”

    Sione Mafileo and a returning Alex Hodgman have been rewarded for their excellent form against the Chiefs last week with starts in the front row. They join captain James Parsons, Tupou, Steven 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 in-form Rieko Ioane – with nine tries this year – forms a dangerous back three with exciting runners Melani Nanai and Declan O’Donnell.

    Several players have niggling injuries after a demanding month, which has forced Umaga to sit out 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 against the Chiefs, and Charlie Faumuina has tonsillitis.

    However, there is star quality on the bench led by All Black Ofa Tu’ungafasi, the highly impressive Akira Ioane, and exciting first-five Stephen Perofeta.

    “It is important for us to respect this game in Samoa with a strong performance,” said Umaga. “We have two games left in the Super Rugby season and we desperately want to continue our progression.

    “Also the injuries to some of our regular starters have given us the chance to play some of our exciting young players who have earned their opportunities.”

    The match kicks off at 8.35pm local time (7.35 NZ time) at Apia Park and is broadcast live on Sky TV.

    The Blues team is:

    1 Alex Hodgman, 2. James Parsons (c), 3. Sione Mafileo, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu, 5. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 7.Kara Pryor, 8. Steven Luatua; 9. Sam Nock, 10. Piers Francis, 11. Rieko Ioane, 12. TJ Faiane, 13. Rene Ranger, 14. Declan O’Donnell, 15. Melani Nanai.

    Replacements: 16. Hame Faiva, 17. Sam Prattley, 18. Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19. Akira Ioane, 20. Murphy Taramai, 21. Billy Guyton, 22. Stephen Perofeta, 23. Jordan Trainor.

  • exciting midfielder Rene Ranger

    hasn't been exciting for a while unfortunately

    Finally giving Gibson a break and great to see Nock getting a start, needs to make the most of it!

  • Can we get straight into the Collins v Nanai discussion?

    Is Nanai's selection a one off due to his Samoan heritage or has he finally taken the jersey?

  • Yeah unfortunately due to injury and age Ranger has been a shadow of his former self since he has returned from Europe. He will have a tough assignment too marking the Reds best player in Kerevi.

    Excited to see Nock get a start.

    I don't care about the reason - Nanai starting and Collins not in the 23 is good news.

    I really hope Perofeta gets some decent minutes in this game - especially with the Lions game upcoming and Francis not playing that (as he will be with England). I would have been tempted to start Perofeta - hopefully he gets the best part of a half of footy.

  • I like having this in Samoa, but wouldn't a Friday night game at Okara just be the bomb? Nice curtain raiser for the lions, hook into a bunch of rugby people in town anyway, expose Lions fans to Super Rugby and absolutely stimulate the local economy.

    Don't panic though - with 30,000 people going to the game:
    A1 Cabs is putting all 16 of its taxis on the road on match day and A1's operations manager, Shaun Williams, said a busy Saturday was in store for his drivers.

    Awesome 🙂

  • @Milk I'd say that with the Super season gone, Tana's resting most of his big guns for the Lions.

  • @Chris-B. said in Blues v Reds:

    @Milk I'd say that with the Super season gone, Tana's resting most of his big guns for the Lions.

    I'd love it if the NZ Super Rugby teams really targeted their Lions game. I was so disappointed in how some of the Aussie Super teams used it as a chance to give their wider squad a run.

  • @Milk Would be madness for Tana not to target the Lions game - it's by far the biggest game remaining and a chance to win something significant.

    I reckon the team vs the Lions will significantly stronger than this one!

  • Yeah I specifically remember the Force being in a similar position in the 13 Lions tour - they had a Super game followed quickly by the Lions game (or it might have been visca versca) whilst also being out of playoff contention.

    The Force did the opposite and put their strongest team out to play the Super game (which they lost) and a no name XV to play the Lions (much worse than the Blues team named here to play the Reds).

    Very happy with the Blues approach here.

  • No doubt he is resting that big gun Collins so he is fresh to play 80mins against the Lions.

    I wonder if this will be the last we ever see of Ranger at Super rugby level. Hope not but he is definitely a shadow of the player he was when he left NZ.

  • It will be interesting to see how Trainor goes from the bench.

  • @KiwiMurph word I'm hearing on Ranger,he's looking at another franchise for 2018,not wanted by the Blues,will need a big Mitre 10 with Northland if rumours doing the rounds are correct.

  • @Steven-Harris tbh, I'm not fussed either way if we get him back or not...although, maybe returning to NOrthland might reignite his flame, cos it's been dim since he has been at NH (without ever playing) if he gets his spark back, he still has alot to offer

  • @Steven-Harris Not surprised. Best for both parties I think.

  • @taniwharugby I certainly think he still has a bit to offer,I actually thought he was unlucky to be dropped back to the Dev squad after the highlanders game at Eden Park.
    Getting a high ankle sprain playing against the Canes Dev squad and being out for several weeks did'nt help,but to be fair to Tana,the outside backs he selected did a fair job

  • What's up with Matt Vaega? This would've been a good game to get him some game time.

    Good to see Trainor in there. He could be a good fit for that 23 jersey with his speed and outright attacking ability.

    Not too fussed about the team overall, but I did wince when I saw who was at 6.

  • @Steven-Harris said in Blues v Reds:

    @KiwiMurph word I'm hearing on Ranger,he's looking at another franchise for 2018,not wanted by the Blues,will need a big Mitre 10 with Northland if rumours doing the rounds are correct.

    Interesting. I wonder if the Chiefs would be a good fit for him. They will have a few gaps next year with a few guys leaving.

  • @Dice He's made the reserve bench maybe once this year? Strange after a really good year in 2016.

  • @Tim I don't think he's even made the bench this season?

  • @pukunui I think the chiefs would be the perfect fit for a Ranger,especially if Ngatai recovers from his concussion,along with Lienart Brown in the midfield,and with James Lowes heading oversees,I would utilise Rene as wing option.

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