Rugby: Kirwan sticks with side

By Cameron Leslie

Northland's Rene Ranger unsurprisingly has retained his starting spot for the Blues as coach Sir John Kirwan named an unchanged line-up.

The unchanged selection gives Kirwan's troops a vote of confidence as they head into tomorrow night's match against the Crusaders at Eden Park as underdogs, despite a bumper crowd being expected.

Kirwan said it was a pretty simple decision to retain his team after a charismatic performance first up against the Hurricanes.

"After the performance last week the guys can go around again," Kirwan said.

"As games go, this is just under a test match. Blues versus Crusaders is the game of the season so you've got to be ready for it because it should be. For us it's like a local derby."

While the Blues may have surprised many pundits by overcoming the Hurricanes last week, Kirwan knows they are going to have to step things up another gear at Eden Park on Friday night if they are to trouble the red and blacks.

"They're the favourites; they're talking about winning the championship."

The Blues will wear a unique one-off jersey on Friday to help raise funds for Men's Health Trust New Zealand.

Blues v Crusaders

Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, George Moala, Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams (c), Culum Retallick, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Tom McCartney. Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Angus Ta'avao, Liaki Moli, Brendon O'Connor, Bryn Hall, Baden Kerr, Jackson Willison.

Crusaders: Tom Taylor, Adam Whitelock, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Israel Dagg, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (c), Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Samuel Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Dominic Bird, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Tyler Bleyendaal, Tom Marshall.

- Northern Advocate

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