Blues bolstered as All Blacks duo return for crunch clash with the Brumbies

David Skippers
Patrick Tuipulotu and Mark Telea Blues image 17 April 2024.jpg

Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu and wing Mark Tele'a.

The Blues have been bolstered ahead of their Super Rugby Pacific clash with the Brumbies as All Blacks duo Patrick Tuipulotu and Mark Tele’a have been included in their run-on side.

The match is a highly anticipated one as it sees the second-placed Blues hosting the Brumbies, who are one spot below them in the standings, at Eden Park.

Tuipulotu is back after missing their Round Seven over the Western Force due to concussion while Tele’a returns after being rested for that encounter.

Rookie scrum-half starts again

Tele’a is back on the right wing, keen to increase to his season tally of five tries, while promising scrum-half Taufa Funaki gets his second consecutive start after delivering a fine performance against the Force.

He fills in for New Zealand international Finlay Christie, who is still ruled out with a groin injury, while Harry Plummer continues at fly-half while another All Black, Stephen Perofeta is sidelined with a shoulder problem.

Joining Funaki and Plummer in the backline is Bryce Heem, who has also overcome a concussion issue and he lines up at inside centre alongside Rieko Ioane in a solid-looking midfield combination.

The rest of the backline sees Cole Forbes (full-back) and Caleb Clarke joining Tele’a in the back three.

An imposing pack of forwards will take on the Brumbies with Tuipulotu returning to captain the side from the second-row and Laghlan McWhannell joins him in the engine room.

In the front-row, Ricky Riccitelli continues at hooker while Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Marcel Renata are the starting props.

Super Rugby Pacific statistics: Cortez Ratima a big mover despite Chiefs defeat

On the replacements bench, Sam Darry is set to make his return after recovering from a knee injury and Blues head coach Vern Cotter is delighted to have the 23-year-old back in his matchday squad.

“Sam’s back with us and we’ll look to ease him in with some minutes off the bench on Saturday,” said Cotter.

“He was a strong performer for us at the start of the season, he’s a big body and an excellent lineout forward. It’s great to have some depth return to our locking stocks and I know he’s excited to be back wearing the Blues jersey once again.”

Cotter highlighted the importance of their clash against the Brumbies in terms of their goals for the Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

“Clearly the Brumbies are tracking really well this season, they’ve been impressive both offensively and defensively and will be a handful on Saturday at Eden Park,” he said.

“We’re locked together on points, we’ve won the same number of games and whoever wins on Saturday will claim outright second on the points table – it’s a big match there’s no doubt about that.”

Blues team to face the Brumbies

Blues: 15 Cole Forbes, 14 Mark Tele’a, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Bryce Heem, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Taufa Funaki, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Laghlan McWhannell, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 3 Marcel Renata, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi
Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Joshua Fusitu’a, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Sam Darry, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Lucas Cashmore, 23 AJ Lam

Date: Saturday, April 20
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19:05 local (08:05 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Stu Curran (New Zealand), Jackson Henshaw (New Zealand)
TMO: Glen Newman (New Zealand)

READ MORE: Kurtley Beale set for Western Force debut and first Super Rugby appearance in four years