Blues stick with settled Super Rugby side

Blues coach Tana Umaga has gone for a mostly unaltered starting 15 to face Super Rugby strugglers the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.

There are just two changes, one forced by the recall of winger Rieko Ioane to the New Zealand sevens’ squad for the world series tournaments in Paris and London.

The 19-year-old’s spot on the right wing goes to Melani Nanai.

The other switch is at tighthead prop, where Ofa Tu’ungafasi comes in for Charlie Faumuina, who goes to the reserves.

Ioane’s older brother Akira has also rejoined the national sevens’ squad and his replacement on the bench is Hoani Matenga, who will provide lock and loose forward cover.

The match on Sunday morning (AEST) will be hard-running centre George Moala’s 50th for the Blues.

All but one of the 25-year-old’s previous appearances have been in Super Rugby – he also played against the touring French side in 2013 – and he is the most-experienced member of the backline that the Blues will field.

The Blues are looking to build on back-to-back wins that has them eighth in the Australasian group, eight points below the fifth-placed Highlanders in the last playoff spot, but with a game in hand.

They will face opponents who are bottom of the competition, with one win from their eight matches and coming off a 73-27 loss to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.

Blues: Lolagi Visinia, Melani Nanai, George Moala, Piers Francis, Tevita Li, Ihaia West, Bryn Hall, Steven Luatua, Tanerau Latimer, Jerome Kaino, Josh Bekhuis, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, James Parsons (capt), Sam Prattley. Res: Matt Moulds, Nic Mayhew, Charlie Faumuina, Hoani Matenga, Kara Pryor, Billy Guyton, Matt McGahan, Male Sa’u.

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