First start of the season for Ioane

Date published: March 9 2016

Akira Ioane will start as Blues' coach Tana Umaga announces his team that will face the Hurricanes on Friday at Eden Park.

The All Black Sevens star replaces Steven Luatua at the back of the scrum with lock Patrick Tuipulotu shifting to the bench. Charlie Faumuina gets the nod ahead of Sione Mafileo in a bid to stabilise the scrums.

Fly-half Ihaia West returns to the starting XV with Bryn Hall pairing up with him at scrum-half.

Japanese international Male Su’a pairs up with George Moala in the midfield. Another sevens player returns to the starting fold, Lolagi Visinia replaces Matt Duffie at full-back. 

Rene Ranger moves from the outside centre and replaces Melani Nanai on the right wing.

"Rene is coming back from a long lay-off," Umaga the New Zealand Herald

"At centre he hasn't been getting the touches that he would like or we would like.  With our game plan the way it is and our wings getting a lot of touches of the ball, that's the thinking behind it. 

"Rene Ranger getting the ball in his hands is good for us and good for him."

The Blues boss is hoping for a repeat of their first round 33-31 victory over defending champions the Highlanders at the same venue.

"What worked for us in the first game will work for us again if we just back that,” said the former All Blacks captain.

Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Rene Ranger, 13 Male Su’a, 12 George Moala, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Jerome Kaino (c), 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Steven Luatua, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Matt McGahan, 23 Melani Nanai

Date: 11 March 2016
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland 
Kick-off: 19:35 local (10:35 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant Referees: Brendon Pickerill, Brett Johnson
TMO: Shane McDermott