Kirwan pulls no surprises for Blues starting XV
February 21, 2013
Piri Weepu is set to play his 100th Super Rugby game this weekend. © Getty Images
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan offered no surprises in the first line-up of their 2013 Super Rugby season, which kicks off against the Hurricanes on Saturday.
Kirwan made no changes to the XV which overcame a spirited Highlanders outfit 31-29 in last week's final pre-season match in Queenstown.
All Black halfback Piri Weepu is set to play his 100th Super Rugby game, ironically it will be at Westpac Stadium where he spent eight seasons in yellow-and-black colours.
Captain Ali Williams leads a forward pack anchored by tighthead Faumuina while James Parsons has been handed the hooking duties ahead of Crusaders recruit Quentin MacDonald for the opening game.
Number eight Peter Saili combines with Steven Luatua and openside Luke Braid to form a formidable loose trio while debutant Brendon O'Conner will provide cover in the reserves.
As predicted, Chris Noakes' 'experience' has earned him rights to the No 10 jersey ahead of Counties star Baden Kerr but will likely hand most of his kicking duties over to Weepu as he recovers from a groin strain.
The midfield combination of Rene Ranger and Francis Saili has had two weeks to gel together and will need to be at its best against the pairing of Conrad Smith and Tim Bateman.
Frank Halai is set to make his Super Rugby debut on the wing, flanked by outside backs George Moala and Charles Piutau.
Blues: 1.Tom McCartney, 2.James Parsons, 3.Charlie Faumuina, 4.Cullum Retallick, 5.Ali Williams (c), 6.Steven Luatua, 7.Luke Braid, 8.Peter Saili, 9.Piri Weepu, 10.Chris Noakes, 11.George Moala, 12.Francis Saili, 13.Rene Ranger, 14.Frank Halai, 15.Charles Piutau. Reserves:16.Quentin MacDonald, 17.Angus Ta'avao, 18.Liaki Moli, 19.Brendan O'Conner, 20.Bryn Hall, 21.Baden Kerr, 22. Jackson Willison
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