Blues boosted for Stormers test
May 1, 2013
Francis Saili returns to centre for the Blues © Getty Images
Veteran All Black Mealamu comes into the team which lost 12-11 to the Queensland Reds to replace the injured James Parsons.
Saili will start at centre, with Rene Ranger moving to the wing in place of Albert Nikoro. Former All Blacks lock Anthony Boric is back on the bench after being cleared of a serious neck injury, while Quentin MacDonald will take Mealamu's place on the bench.
Also on the bench is outside back Lolagi Visinia, who was named in the All Blacks Under-20s squad for the junior world championship in France and who will make his Blues debut if he gets on the field.
"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," Blues coach Sir John Kirwan said ahead of the Blues' match against the Stormers at North Harbour Stadium on Friday night. "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 previously had a neck injury that kept him out for 10 weeks but Kirwan said this one 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."
One Blues player whose neck injury wasn't as bad as first thought was former All Blacks lock 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.
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.