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Steven Luatua to start against Chiefs
ESPN Staff
May 9, 2014

Peter Saili will miss the Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues in New Plymouth on Friday because his partner is expecting a baby.

Saili has returned home to Auckland, and he will be replaced by Steven Luatua at blindside flanker. Taranaki captain Kane Barrett comes onto the bench.

Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan had previously made just one injury-enforced change to his starting XV to play the reigning champions at Yarrow Stadium, promoting George Moala from the bench to start at outside centre.

George Moala beats Andy Ellis, Blues v Crusaders, Eden Park, Super Rugby, February 28, 2014
George Moala "has played there all year" © Getty Images
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Jackson Willison strained a hamstring in the victory against Queensland Reds last week, while Francis Saili is still absent having sustained a high ankle sprain in the lead up to that match.

"George has played there all year and has done a great job for us so I have no issues at all," Kirwan said. "One of the positive things was that when we had Francis fall over on Wednesday, Jackson Willison stepped up and he got injured in the first half and then George stepped in and we were pretty seamless which was fantastic."

Kirwan decided to leave captain Luke Braid out of the side rather than risk rushing him back too early from injury.

"For me the biggest decision was around Braidy and whether he was 100%, and we've decided that he's about 90% so we're going to give him a rest. It's great having the privilege of Brendon [O'Connor], who is playing incredibly well, so that's the nice thing about creating a full squad now. You've got guys that are transitioning in without too much hassle."

Prop Sam Prattley has overcome a neck injury to be included on the bench ahead of Ofa Tu'ungafasi, while Pita Ahki is also named in the reserves in place of the promoted Moala..

Kirwan said he and his player were "well aware" they had not won away from home.

"This team needs to win away from home if we're going to be in the play-offs. There's no science around that. We just need to take more individual responsibility and make sure we get there."

Blues: Charles Piutau; Frank Halai, George Moala, Ma'a Nonu, Lolagi Visinia; Simon Hickey, Bryn Hall; Jerome Kaino, Brendon O'Connor, Peter Saili; Tom Donnelly, Patrick Tuipulotu; Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu (captain), Tony Woodcock. Replacements: James Parsons, Sam Prattley, Angus Ta'avao, Hayden Triggs, Steven Luatua, Piri Weepu, Ihaia West, Pita Ahki.

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