Hooker Parsons handed Blues captaincy

Hooker James Parsons will lead the Blues against the Hurricanes after becoming the Super Rugby franchise’s third captain this season.

One-Test All Black Parsons inherits the skipper’s armband for Saturday’s game in Auckland from Steven Luatua, who is ruled out for the season after injuring his shoulder in last week’s 23-18 win over the Bulls.

Luatua served two games as captain after replacing the injured Jerome Kaino.

Parsons, 28, was an injury replacement during the All Blacks’ season-ending tour in November and started in the win over Scotland at Edinburgh.

He has started eight games this year, three more than teammate and veteran Test rake Keven Mealamu.

All three changes to the team to face the competition leaders at Eden Park are in the forwards.

All Blacks props Charlie Faumuina and Tony Woodcock have been replaced by Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Sam Prattley, with the latter making his first start for the season after six bench appearances.

Faumuina is being rested while Woodcock has a shoulder injury.

Luatua’s absence has triggered a loose forward reshuffle.

Akira Ioane shifts from flanker to No.8, making room for fellow New Zealand under-20 representative Blake Gibson to make his first Blues start.

Both are key members of the national age group side who leave for Italy next week to contest the under-20 World Cup.

Blues: Lolagi Visinia, Ben Lam, Francis Saili, George Moala, Melani Nanai, Ihaia West, Jamison Gibson-Park, Akira Ioane, Black Gibson, Brendon O’Connor, Josh Bekhuis, Culum Retallick, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, James Parsons (capt), Sam Prattley. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Angus Ta’avao, Nick Mayhew, Will Lloyd, Joe Edwards, Jimmy Cowan, Simon Hickey, Matt Vaega.

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