Thu, 31 Mar 2016
English-born back Piers Francis will make his first Super Rugby appearance when the Blues host the Jaguares at North Harbour on Saturday.
The 25 year old, sidelined with a foot injury since pre-season, will play in the midfield alongside Rene Ranger who makes his return.
Francis played for Saracens for four years before moving to Auckland and then to Waikato and the Chiefs Wider Training Group before returning to UK to play for Edinburgh and Doncaster. He returned last year to play for Counties Manukau and is renowned as an excellent defender and one of the fittest in the team.
The rest of the backline are the same players who travelled to the Reds last week.
Upfront James Parsons assumes the captaincy in the absence of the injured Jerome Kaino, with North Harbour prop Nick Mayhew given his first start to bolster up a scrum that will be tested against the Jaguares.
Joe Edwards starts in the place of Kaino on the side of the scrum with Akira Ioane to provide thrust off the bench.
After starting in each of the first four games, prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi and midfielder George Moala will come off the bench.
The team is:
Forwards: Nic Mayhew, James Parsons ©, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Josh Bekhuis, Joe Edwards, Blake Gibson, Steven Luatua; Bryn Hall, Ihaia West, Tevita Li, Piers Francis, Rene Ranger, Rieko Ioane, Lolagi Visinia.
Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Sam Prattley, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Hoani Matenga, Akira Ioane, Billy Guyton, Matt McGahan, George Moala.