Rugby: Braid missing for Blues

Luke Braid tackled by the Waratahs' Dave Dennis. Photo / Getty Images
Luke Braid tackled by the Waratahs' Dave Dennis. Photo / Getty Images

Blues captain Luke Braid will miss his side's clash with the Reds at Eden Park on Friday after injuring his shoulder in last weekend's win over the Waratahs.

Braid's absence, the only change to the Blues' starting XV for the encounter with the 13th-placed Reds, will be a big blow after the positivity that returned with Friday's 21-13 victory.

The openside flanker has been a standout for his team this season - starting every match apart from the defeat against the Brumbies in Canberra when he was a second-half replacement.

He is one of his team's busiest ball carriers and easily tops the tackle count. Fortunately, Sir John Kirwan has the increasingly influential Jerome Kaino to count on in both these areas, while Braid's replacement, Brendon O'Connor, is also an excellent defender.

"Luke's been playing well for us and is totally committed but Brendon is an outstanding replacement for him,'' Kirwan said. "He's a very good player in his own right so it's a really good opportunity for him.''

Talismanic hooker Keven Mealamu will assume the captaincy duties in Braid's absence.

Kirwan has made one additional positional change, with Peter Saili switching to blindside flanker and Kaino moving to No 8 in the search for more control at the base of the scrum.

"Jerome can play both positions pretty well and together they bring a little bit of edge, they're both physical and strong ball carriers,'' Kirwan said. "We did the same switch at half time last week and it frees Pete up to roam around a bit more.''

On the bench, Ofa Tu'ungafasi replaces the injured Sam Prattley while outside back George Moala comes in for Pita Ahki.

The Blues are up against a smarting Reds outfit who have lost their last three games in a row and who will be eager to put in a strong performance for livewire first-five Quade Cooper, expected to play his 100th game on Friday.

The Reds boast an impressive record against the Blues, having won their last four encounters, and Kirwan said he was expecting a fierce battle.

"They'll be desperate so we can't wait, we've just got to really hoe in and replicate the energy and effort that we put in last week.

"It's a big night for us and we feel like we're the underdogs, but if we can get the same intensity we had last week it should put us in good stead.''

Blues team to face the Reds at Eden Park on Friday night:

Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Francis Saili, Ma'a Nonu, Lolagi Visinia, Simon Hickey, Bryn Hall, Jerome Kaino, Brendon O'Connor, Peter Saili, Tom Donnelly, Patrick Tuipulotu, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu (c), Tony Woodcock. Reserves: James Parsons, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Angus Ta'avao, Hayden Triggs, Steven Luatua, Piri Weepu, Ihaia West, George Moala

- APNZ

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