Blues overhaul team to face Crusaders

The revolving door at the Blues has flung four All Blacks out of their team to face the Crusaders but swung another five back in.

Coach John Kirwan has made eight changes to the starting side beaten 30-24 by the Highlanders last weekend, their eighth loss from nine Super Rugby games which leaves them in 14th place.

He is resting the influential pair of fullback Charles Piutau and No.8 Jerome Kaino from Saturday’s game in Christchurch following heavy workloads for both All Blacks.

Captain Kaino has started all but one game while Piutau has shone in playing nearly every minute of the team’s disappointing campaign.

Lolagi Visinia replaces Piutau, having overcome a head knock, while All Blacks forward Steven Luatua will wear No.8.

Two other changes in the backs see former All Blacks Francis Saili and Jimmy Cowan return at centre and halfback in place of the injured Pita Ahki (Achilles) and Jamison Gibson-Park.

Hayden Triggs replaces Test lock Patrick Tuipulotu, who has suffered a leg injury which will sideline him for an estimated two weeks.

There is a complete overhaul of the front row, where veterans Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Charlie Faumuina, boasting 260 Test caps between them, replace Angus Ta’avao, James Parsons and Ofa Tu’ungafasi.

Former captain Mealamu will be skipper against a Crusaders team they haven’t beaten in Christchurch since 2004.

Blues: Lolagi Visinia, Frank Halai, Francis Saili, George Moala, Melani Nanai, Dan Bowden, Jimmy Cowan, Steven Luatua, Brendon O’Connor, Akira Ioane, Hayden Triggs, Josh Bekhuis, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu (capt), Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Matt Moulds, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Angus Ta’avao, Culum Retallick, Blake Gibson, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ihaia West, Tevita Li.

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