Mealamu returns for Blues against Stormers
May 1, 2013
All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu will make his return to the Blues starting team this weekend © Getty Images
A neck injury to James Parsons has cleared the way for All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu to return to the Blues starting XV, though his coach says Mealamu may have made the team in any case.
The 34-year-old Mealamu was ready to resume as a starter after an extended summer break meant he has been limited to bench appearances this season until this week.
But with the neck injury to the in-form Parsons, Blues coach Sir John Kirwan doesn't have to choose between them.
"JP's sort of done everything that we've asked of him, he's been playing exceptionally well, so him having this small injury means Keven's got to step up," Kirwan said. "He probably would have stepped up anyway, and we're just looking for him to get back to the great form and the great player that he is."
Parsons has previously had a neck injury which kept him out for 10 weeks but Kirwan said this injury is not related.
"He'll probably be all right in a week but to be cautious we'll probably try and take a couple of weeks with him," Kirwan added.
One Blues player whose neck injury wasn't as bad as first thought was former All Blacks lock Anthony Boric, who returns to the bench.
"He was a little bit concerned, he took a knock on it a couple of weeks ago and needed to get it checked again and he has and he's fit and available, so that's great," Kirwan said.
In the other change to the starting 15, Kirwan has pushed Rene Ranger onto the wing in place of Albert Nikoro from the team who went down 12-11 to the Reds last Friday, with Peter Saili coming back in at centre. He has also put New Zealand under-20 outside back Lolagi Visinia into the team for the first time as a reserve.
"We're just picking the side this week which we think will be great for the Stormers and then we need to start giving these young guys some game time."
Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Francis Saili, Jackson Willison, Rene Ranger, Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams (captain), Culum Retallick, Angus Ta'avao, Keven Mealamu, Tom McCartney. Replacements: Quentin MacDonald, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Anthony Boric, Brendon O'Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Baden Kerr, Lolagi Visinia.