Keven Mealamu returns from calf injury
May 16, 2013
Keven Mealamu brings a wealth of experience to the side to play the Crusaders © Getty Images
Keven Mealamu has overcome a calf strain to take his place in the Blues side to play the Crusaders in Super Rugby Round 14 at AMI Park on Saturday, coach Sir John Kirwan recalling the 102-Test All Blacks veteran as one of six changes to his squad.
Mealamu replaces Quentin MacDonald as James Parsons has failed to shrug off a neck injury and will sit this week out, while Culum Retallick and Luke Braid also return to bolster a powerful forward pack having been rested from the side that defeated Melbourne Rebels in round 13. "Kevvie's great, he got through training and he's the best we've seen him so he's in good shape," Kirwan said of his hooker. "I think Luke is really on top of his game. He was in a situation where we needed to give him some time out of the game last week, and it was the same with Culum. They've both come back in and I think they've been having defining seasons and deserve to be back out there."
MacDonald drops to the bench as the replacement hooker, while prop Sam Prattley, called into the squad midway through the season to replace injured Charlie Faumuina, will have the chance to make his Blues debut after being named on the bench in place of Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
Francis Saili, meanwhile, is dropped to the bench despite his selection in the All Blacks Wider Training Squad earlier this week, the second five-eighth making way for Jackson Willison to return after suffering an ankle sprain against Queensland Reds in Super Rugby round 11. "Jacko gives us a little bit more voice and experience out there, and then we can bring Ces [Saili] on late in the game and really break it up," Kirwan said. "It's difficult for [Saili] because he played well in attack last week, but we think Jackson just provides a bit of steadiness in the midfield."
The Blues have not defeated the Crusaders in Christchurch in nine years, but Kirwan said it was time to put an end to that disappointing record. "They deserve everything they've had," Kirwan said of the Crusaders. ""They've been a fantastic franchise and have led the way for many of us and now it's time for us to get down there and earn some respect back and to do that we need to play for 80 minutes and be in a real battle. For me, it's a Test match and that's how it should be. I can't wait, I'm really excited, and the players are excited, too. We're underdogs going down there with everything against us; it doesn't get any better than that."
Blues: Charles Piutau; Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Jackson Willison, George Moala; Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu; Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua; Ali Williams (captain), Culum Retallick; Angus Ta'avao, Keven Mealamu, Tim Perry. Replacements: Quentin MacDonald, Sam Prattley, Anthony Boric, Brendon O'Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Baden Kerr, Francis Saili.
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