Super Rugby Trans-Tasman: Blues name settled line-up, Force receive Kearney boost

Thu, 10/06/2021, 07:11 am
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Rob Kearney returns via the bench for the Force. Photo: Getty Images

The Blues have named a settled side as they look to book a finals spot, headlined by the return on Hoskins Sotutu to the starting side.

Sotutu slots into number eight in place of Akira Ioane, who will revert back to the bench.

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Meanwhile, Ofa Tuungafasi has once again been sidelined with niggling knee and hand complaints, replaced by fellow All Black Nepo Laulala, allowing Marcel Renata to return to the bench.

With expectation starting to build for a potential home Final, coach Leon McDonald is remaining focused on the challenge ahead.

“We have approached this competition by never getting ahead of ourselves. We have focused on doing the basics well, playing at the right end of the field and defending with equal parts of aggression, pride and accuracy,” said Blues coach Leon MacDonald.

“When we have front-foot ball in the right parts of the field, then that has given our ball-runners options and opportunity.

“We know we are in unchartered waters for this group of men, but we will be stressing that we keep on doing what has been working for us. Keep it simple, be smart, work hard and believe in each other. Do that and good things should happen.”

Jordan Olowofela sprints through

Meanwhile, the Western Force have received a boost with Rob Kearney returning via the bench.

Kearney missed their loss to the Crusaders after he failed his HIA test in Round Three.

Following his 100th game, Ian Prior comes into the starting side for Tomas Cubelli (toe) whilst Jordan Olowofela comes back on the wing with Toni Pulu (foot) set to be sidelined.

Michael McDonald makes his long-awaited return from a foot injury and is set to make his first Super Rugby appearance for the Force since arriving back from the Waratahs.

"It’s great for Macca (Michael McDonald). He’s had a long road to recovery, but he’s in great condition now. It’s another great story for us, he’s a young local player who has come through our pathway and he’ll get an opportunity to play against the Blues this Saturday,” Sampson said.

“Prior and McIntyre will give us clear direction. They play well together and they can provide us with some strong direct footy.

“It’s about winning. What we’re looking for this weekend is a win to finish the competition.”

BLUES (1-15): Alex Hodgman, Kurt Eklund, Nepo Laulala, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Patrick Tuipulotu (c), Tom Robinson, Dalton Papalii, Hoskins Sotutu, Finlay Christie, Otere Black, Mark Telea, TJ Faiane, Rieko Ioane, Bryce Heem, Zarn Sullivan

Reserves: Ray Niula, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Marcel Renata, Josh Goodhue, Akira Ioane, Jonathan Ruru, Harry Plummer, AJ Lam

INs: Marcel Renata, Josh Goodhue, Ray Niula

OUTs: Ofa Tuungafasi, Jacob Pierce, Soane Vikena

FORCE (1-15): Tom Robertson, Feleti Kaitu'u, Santiago Medrano, Jeremy Thrush, Sitaleki Timani, Fergus Lee-Warner, Kane Koteka, Ollie Callan, Ian Prior, Jake McIntyre, Jordan Olowofela, Kyle Godwin (c), Tevita Kuridrani, Richard Kahui, Jake Strachan

Reserves: Andrew Ready, Angus Warner, Greg Holmes, Ryan McCauley, Brynard Stander, Michael McDonald, Domingo Miotti, Rob Kearney

INs: Michael McDonald, Rob Kearney, Brynard Stander

OUTs: Tomas Cubelli, Toni Pulu, Tim Anstee

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