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Kaino captains Blues

01st April 2014 17:42

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Blues skipper: Jerome Kaino

Jerome Kaino will captain a Blues side featuring two changes in Friday's clash Super Rugby clash with the Brumbies in Canberra.

In the absence of Luke Braid, who moves to the bench after shouldering a heavy workload this season, 30-year-old Kaino will take over the reigns.

Brendon O'Connor starts at openside flanker in place of Braid in an otherwise unchanged forward pack after last week's win over the Highlanders.

After a stellar game against the Highlanders last week, Jackson Willison has been ruled out of Friday's clash with a rib injury as George Moala shifts into centre and livewire Tevita Li starts on the wing.

Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan said Kaino was the best man to lead the team.

"I think since he's been back he's really stepped into that leadership role so it was a pretty easy decision really," Kirwan said.

"There are a lot of guys leading in the football team which is a really good sign but he has that mana."

"Braidy just hasn't been able to train for the last couple of weeks so what we need to do is give him a bit of time to recover," Kirwan said.

"Brendon has been playing incredibly well and he's fresh so I just think if we give a little bit of time to Braidy to freshen up then he'll be good to come off the bench for us."

"Jackson dinged a rib two weeks ago, dinged it again on Saturday night running into Malakai and also hurt his knee so he's out with some minor injuries," added Kirwan.

"George played really well for us the other night on the wing and having him being able to cover centre is fantastic. And Tevita continues his growth, he's coming along really well."

The Blues are also bolstered by the return of All Black midfielder Francis Saili who has overcome a stress injury and will make his impact felt off the bench.

"He's trained well all week, he certainly brings us lots of spark and enthusiasm and it's nice to have him back running freely so he's excited and we're looking forward to getting him back out there," said Kirwan.

"He could play 80 minutes, he' a fit young man but that's probably not ideal so into the second half, we just need to see what's going and try and get him on like we did with Ma'a and Jerome last week."

With a shortage of locks as Culum Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu and Tom Donnelly are all injured as well as Tom Murday who returns to club rugby this week, loose forward Jordan Manihera comes onto the bench with Steven Luatua covering lock.

Kirwan said the Brumbies posed a huge challenge on Friday.

"They're top of the Aussie conference, they beat the Waratahs a couple of weeks ago so they're going to be a very hard team to beat. They're very organised, very structured, very physical and finalists last year so we'll have to be right on our game to beat them."

He also said it was time to start winning away from home if the Blues were to be considered serious title contenders.

"This year everyone's losing away from home but I think if you want to be around at the end of the season then you need to start winning away. There's no harder place to go and win [than Canberra] but I think that's quite exciting. We're 0-3 away from home and we need to get that straight."

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Jerome Kaino (c), 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Jordan Manihera, 20 Luke Braid, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Francis Saili, 23 Benji Marshall.

Date: Friday, April 4
Venue: Canberra Stadium
Kick-off: 19.40 local (09:40 BST, 08.40 GMT)
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)

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