Ioane set for first Blues start

Date published: April 16 2015

Outstanding teenage prospect Akira Ioane will make his Super Rugby debut for the Blues against the Highlanders on Saturday.

Ioane is one of the most exciting young players in the game, who played in the All Black Sevens team last year and impressed coach Sir Gordon Tietjens.

He was given a late contract with the Blues and the 190cm, 110kg loose forward was a standout in pre-season games. He gets his chance with Luke Braid not considered with injury and Steven Luatua rested after a heavy schedule.

Another young talent, Blake Gibson, a member of this year’s All Blacks U20 team to the Gold Coast next month, comes into the reserves.

The Blues also welcome back Jimmy Cowan to the reserves, after he was on leave for the birth of his second child, a daughter.

Cowan played more than a 100 games for the Highlanders, and joins Dan Bowden, Josh Bekhuis and Hayden Triggs as former players now taking on the Highlanders on Saturday.

Coach John Kirwan is also saving some firepower with All Blacks Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and Charlie Faumuina to come off the bench on Saturday.

There are a number of brackets with players coping with niggling injuries.

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 George Moala/Francis Saili, 11 Melani Nanai/Tevita Li, 10 Dan Bowden, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jerome Kaino (c), 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Ofa Tu'ungafasi
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Tony Woodcock/Sam Prattley, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Blake Gibson, 21 Jimmy Cowan, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Francis Saili/Hamish Northcott

Date: Saturday, April 18

Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Kick-off: 19:35 local (17:35 AEST, 09:35 SAST, 07:35 GMT)

Referee: Chris Pollock

Assistant Referees: Ben O'Keeffe, Mike Lash

TMO: Vinny Munro