Blues coach Sir John Kirwan rings changes
March 8, 2013
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Blues coach Sir John Kirwan has made six changes to his starting line-up for the fixture against the Bulls at Eden Park on Sunday afternoon. The coach was tempted to retain the XV that overcame the Hurricanes and the Crusaders in previous weeks, but he said his players needed adequate rest if they were to complete the 16-game home-and-away season.
"This is a marathon, not a sprint," Kirwan said. "If we're going to be successful now and in the future then we need to have a full squad and we need to have internal competition so it was about giving the guys that have worked really hard in the off-season the opportunity to step up."
Chris Noakes is one of the players who will use the time off the field to nurse a niggling injury, the fly-half's recurring groin problem that has prevented him from kicking this season seeing him replaced by Counties recruit Baden Kerr in the No. 10 jersey. Kerr forms a key match-up against Bulls and Springboks points machine Morne Steyn, who has missed just one of 15 shots at goal this season.
Peter Saili vacates the No. 8 spot, where rising flanker Steven Luatua will step up to control the back of the scrum, with Kane Barrett making his first start at blindside flanker.
The Blues looked good in blitzing the Crusaders%]
Against a physical Bulls pack that leads the competition in mauling metres, Kirwan has made an enormous call to throw debutant prop Tim Perry in at loose-head while Quentin MacDonald makes his first start at hooker.
Captain Ali Williams will partner with Liaki Moli, who will bring extra power to the Blues' engine room.
"When you play New Zealand franchises, you're playing teams with the same philosophy, a philosophy of 'let's play football and may the best team win', but I think the Africans pose a different challenge," Kirwan said. "They are a bit more brutal, they play to their strengths, they bash you up, and are very physical and aggressive, so we've got to be ready for that."
George Moala suffered a knock after scoring the Blues' final try against the Crusaders, and he has been wearing a moon boot as a precaution. Waisake Naholo takes his place on the wing opposite Frank Halai.
Blues: Charles Piutau; Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, Waisake Naholo; Baden Kerr, Piri Weepu; Steven Luatua, Luke Braid, Kane Barrett; Ali Williams, Liaki Moli; Charlie Faumuina, Quentin MacDonald, Tim Perry. Replacements: James Parsons, Angus Ta'avao, Ronald Raaymakers, Brendon O'Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Marty McKenzie, Albert Nikoro.