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Mealamu back for Blues

03rd April 2013 06:44

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Keven Mealamu Auckland Blues

Back in blue: Keven Mealamu

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan has made two changes to his starting XV for Friday's clash with the Highlanders at Eden Park.

Tasman prop Tim Perry will start at loosehead in place of Tom McCartney, while Jackson Willison replaces Francis Saili at inside centre.

The Blues will be bolstered by World Cup-winning All Black hooker Keven Mealamu who is named on the bench and will make his first appearance of the season after taking an extended leave period.

"We've obviously got Keven coming back so Quentin is a bit unlucky. We think Tim played really well against the Bulls so we want to have another look at him and Jacko just adds bit more balance to the midfield," said Kirwan.

"We think Francis has been playing well but he's been playing a lot so we want him to take some time out and reassess and then come off the bench for us."

Despite boasting a team brimming with All Blacks and x-factor, the Highlanders have been unable to record a win in five matches this season and sit at the bottom of the Super Rugby ladder.

However in many of those losses they have performed strongly and Kirwan knows it is only a matter of time before they click into gear.

"They're seriously dangerous, we're going to have to have a great game to beat them. Ma'a Nonu will bring his A-game and I think we're seeing Hosea on the wing having his best season," said Kirwan.

"We've got a whole lot of good footballers against us that are hurting. I'm good mates with Jamie Joseph and I know how proud he is so this is a huge game for us.

"They can't win a trick and I don't want them to win one on Friday either so that's the nature of this tournament. Look at us, we've lost three in a row so we're under the pump as well. It's going to be a huge game with lots of fireworks and lots of emotion."

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (c), 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Francis Saili.

Date: Friday, April 5
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19:35 (06:35 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Jonathon White (New Zealand), Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (New Zealand)
Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

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