Eden Park, Auckland, 7:35pm kick-off
The match-up between the Blues and the British and Irish Lions tonight will mark the first ever meeting between the two sides.
Both teams head into the clash after performing disappointingly in their recent matches.
Although they are fresh from defeating the Reds 34-29 in Samoa on Friday night, the Blues are out of contention for a Super Rugby play-off spot with just a clash against the Sunwolves in Tokyo remaining.
Despite the pre-season hype surrounding the potential quality within their squad, the Blues are currently sitting on a 7-6-1 record. This season of inconsistency means Tana Umaga’s men will finish at the bottom of the New Zealand conference table with 37 competition points to cap off a winless campaign against the other four Kiwi sides.
Similarly, there is also a sense of disappointment within the Lions camp following their lacklustre 13-7 win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei on Saturday.
The Lions were heavily expected to dominate their opening match of the tour against a side of semi-professionals that was thrown together a week before the clash.
The Baabaas had different ideas however, with the likes of Bryn Gatland and Luteru Laulala outplaying their star opposites Jonathan Sexton and Stuart Hogg to put up a gallant fight which saw them take an unexpected 7-3 lead at half-time.
Jetlag has been highlighted by Lions midfielder Ben Te’o and coach Warren Gatland as a key reason for the team’s underwhelming victory at Okara Park. However, the UK side have had a week in New Zealand, giving them plenty of time to prepare for what should be an entertaining encounter at Eden Park.
Now we have the team line-ups CONFIRMED for the second match of the Lions Tour vs the BLUES ,
we now bring you a “FUN” Look at this Wednesday’s Match , where a clear night is expected in Auckland.
Tana Umaga has named a near full strength side for the Blues’ inaugural fixture against the Lions.
All of the All Blacks within the Blues’ squad have been named in the matchday 23, with Jerome Kaino (knee injury) and Rene Ranger (tactical reasons) the exceptions, while 12 test All Black lock Patrick Tuipulotu is the only non-starting All Black in the team.
Only four players – James Parsons, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Steven Luatua and Rieko Ioane – have retained their positions in the starting line up from the side that defeated the Reds in Apia last week.
One of the most notable inclusions in Umaga’s side is the selection of 20-year-old rookie Stephen Perofeta at first-five. The Taranaki youngster came off the bench against the Reds to make his Super Rugby debut, meaning the Lions match will be his starting debut for the franchise.
Many would have assumed Piers Francis would have been given the responsibility of running the cutter, but he has been called up to the England national side in Argentina, giving Perofeta the monumental task of guiding his side to victory against the Lions in his first ever appearance in a number 10 jersey for the Blues.
Sonny Bill Williams has been bracketed to start at second-five alongside TJ Faiane, although it is thought the former is almost certain to play despite suggestion a knee concern could rule him out. Melani Nanai would drop from the bench should Williams be cleared to play.
Meanwhile, Warren Gatland has made wholesale changes to the starting XV that scraped past the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians on Saturday, with a completely different set of players named to start against the Blues.
Nobody from the starting side has survived from the Lions’ last match, while six of those starting players – Rory Best, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Iain Henderson, Greig Laidlaw and Johnny Sexton – have been demoted to the bench.
Welsh hooker Ken Owens will take over the captaincy role from his compatriot Sam Warburton, who has been rested for the midweek encounter.
Owens is one of 11 starting players who will make their Lions debuts, while a further two players – Peter O’Mahoney and Liam Williams – will make their first appearances in the famous red jersey from the bench.
The matchday 23 consists of eight Englishmen, seven Irishmen, six Welshmen and one Scotsman, amassing in a total of 1,008 test caps.
http://www.nzherald.co.nz 7 Jun, 2017 12:03pm
Blues lock Patrick Tuipulotu dropped from Lions clash after late to training
Patrick Tuipulotu’s failure to notify Blues management that he would be late to training at their Alexandra Park headquarters on Monday has cost him a place in the team to play the British and Irish Lions tonight.
Tuipulotu, an All Black lock who has already endured a roller-coaster of a season given he was a late starter due to a failed, and then passed, drugs test, had been named on the reserves bench at Eden Park.
That failure to make the starting line-up ahead of Gerard Cowley-Tuioti and Scott Scrafton itself raised eyebrows.
Tuipulotu, replaced by Jimmy Tupou after what has been described by the Blues as a breach of team protocol, would have added significant impact from the bench, but coach Umaga clearly decided the 24-year-old didn’t have the consistency in form needed to displace either Cowley-Tuioti or Scrafton.
Apparently this incident isn’t the first time Tuipulotu has found himself at odds with Blues management this year.
But whatever the reasons behind his breach, the fact that he won’t get a chance to play in this unique match, and stamp his own name in history, will be hugely disappointing to himself and Umaga.
At his best, Tuipulotu is a devastating ball runner and defender. A spinal disc bulge recently caused him to miss several matches and while he played well against the Cheetahs at Eden Park on his return, there was a hesitancy in his game that perhaps hasn’t been there before.
Blues: Michael Collins, Matt Duffie, Rieko Ioane, George Moala, Sonny Bill Williams/ TJ Faiane, Stephen Perofeta, Augustine Pulu, Steve Luatua, Blake Gibson, Akira Ioane, Scott Scrafton, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Ofa Tu’ungafasi.
Reserves: Hame Faiva, Alex Hodgman, Sione Mafileo, Jimmy Tupou, Kara Pryor, Sam Nock, Ihaia West, TJ Faiane/Melani Nanai
Lions: Leigh Halfpenny, Jack Nowell, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Elliot Daly, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb, CJ Stander, Justin Tipuric, James Haskell, Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje, Dan Cole, Ken Owens (c), Jack McGrath
Reserves: Rory Best, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony, Greig Laidlaw, Johnny Sexton, Liam Williams.