Super Rugby
Brendon O'Connor replaces Blues captain Luke Braid
ESPN Staff
April 30, 2014
Jerome Kaino is back at No.8 for the visit of Queensland Reds © Getty Images

The Blues have made two changes to their starting side to play Queensland Reds at Eden Park on Friday.

Brendon O'Connor starts at openside flanker in the absence of skipper Luke Braid, who sustained a shoulder injury in the Super Rugby round 11 victory over New South Wales Waratahs, with head coach Sir John Kirwan Kirwan electing also to make one positional change with Peter Saili switching to blindside flanker and Jerome Kaino moving to No.8 to provide more control at the base of the scrum.

"Jerome can play both positions pretty well, and together they bring a little bit of edge," Kirwan said of his decision to switch Saili and Kaino. "They're both physical and strong ball carriers. We did the same switch at half-time last week, and it frees Pete up to roam around a bit more."

Keven Mealamu will assume the captaincy duties in Braid's absence.

On the bench, Ofa Tu'ungafasi replaces injured Sam Prattley while outside back George Moala comes in for Pita Ahki.

Blues 21-13 Waratahs (video available only in Australia)

Kirwan expects a fierce battle against the Reds as the visitors, who have lost their past three games, have won the past four matches against the Auckland-based franchise.

"We've just got to really hoe in and replicate the energy and effort that we put in last week," Kirwan said. "It's a big night for us and we feel like we're the underdogs but if we can get the same intensity we had last week it should put us in good stead.

"Last week was what we needed to do from an intensity and effort point of view, and that now needs to be our minimum. We need to at least match that and make sure we step it up and add a little bit.

"I think we can improve in areas as well. All the games have been going right down to the wire so it's going to be a tough match, but I'm confident if we can bring that attitude then we'll be in the hunt."

Blues: Charles Piutau; Frank Halai, Francis Saili, Ma'a Nonu, Lolagi Visinia; Simon Hickey, Bryn Hall; Jerome Kaino, Brendon O'Connor, Peter Saili; Tom Donnelly, Patrick Tuipulotu; Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu (captain), Tony Woodcock. Replacements: James Parsons, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Angus Ta'avao, Hayden Triggs, Steven Luatua, Piri Weepu, Ihaia West, George Moala.

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