Parsons to lead Blues against Highlanders

Date published: February 24 2016

Hooker James Parsons will captain the Blues in their Super Rugby opener against the Highlanders at Eden Park on Friday.

Parsons, with 50 caps to his credit, takes over the captaincy from Jerome Kaino, who is serving a one match penalty following a red card in the Blues' final pre-season match last week.

Japan World Cup star Male Sa’u will start at centre alongside All Black, George Moala who was the ITM Cup player of the year in 2015.

Sa’u, the former Counties Manukau midfielder, was impressive in his Blues debut against the Chiefs in the pre-season encounter last week.

Up front, North Harbour prop Sione Mafileo has earned his first start, after two games off the bench late last season, alongside Parsons and Ofa Tu’ungafasi.

In-form loose forward Joe Edwards, who also enjoyed an outstanding ITM Cup competition, will start at number six in the absence of Kaino alongside the experienced Steven Luatua and Blake Gibson, a member of the winning New Zealand U20 World Cup side.

The Blues welcome back All Black lock Patrick Tuipulotu, who was outstanding in pre-season, after missing much of the latter part of the season after surgery.

North Harbour captain Bryn Hall has been named at scrum-half alongside Ihaia West after missing all of the 2015 Super Rugby season with injury.

The bench is full of game-breakers including All Black Charlie Faumuina, Sevens star Akira Ioane, former All Black Rene Ranger and experienced hooker Quentin MacDonald.

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

Date: Friday, February 26
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19:35 local (06:35 GMT, 08:35 SAST, 17:35 AEST)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand, Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)