Rugby: Moala inclusion the only change for Blues

George Moala. Photo / Greg Bowker.
George Moala. Photo / Greg Bowker.

Blues coach John Kirwan has made just one injury-enforced change to the starting XV for Friday's match against reigning champions the Chiefs at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth.

With midfielder Francis Saili suffering a high ankle sprain in the lead up to last week's clash with the Reds and Jackson Willison succumbing to a hamstring strain during the game, George Moala has been promoted from the bench to start at centre.

"George has played there all year and has done a great job for us so I have no issues at all,'' Kirwan said.

"One of the positive things was that when we had Francis fall over on Wednesday, Jackson Willison stepped up and he got injured in the first half and then George stepped in and we were pretty seamless which was fantastic.''

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Kirwan has decided to leave captain Luke Braid out of the side rather than risk rushing him back too early.

"For me the biggest decision was around Braidy and whether he was 100 per cent and we've decided that he's about 90 per cent so we're going to give him a rest,'' he said.

"It's great having the privilege of Brendon who is playing incredibly well so that's the nice thing about creating a full squad now. You've got guys that are transitioning in without too much hassle.''

Prop Sam Prattley has overcome a neck injury to be included on the bench ahead of Ofa Tu'ungafasi, while Pita Ahki is also named in the reserves in place of the promoted Moala.

Kirwan said he was expecting a huge challenge from the Chiefs.

"They're the reigning champions and are a great side full of character. It'll be a big week for them and they'll probably be targeting this week as their rebirth because they haven't been travelling as well as they would have liked although they still have 30 points and for us it's a big test away from home so it's going to be a classic.''

Kirwan said there was no way of glossing over the fact that his side had not won a game on the road in 13 matches and that it needed to change this weekend.

"We're well aware of it, this team needs to win away from home if we're going to be in the playoffs, there's no science around that we just need to take more individual responsibility and make sure we get there.''

The Blues team to face the Chiefs at Yarrow Stadium on Friday night (kick-off 7.35pm) is: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, George Moala, 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, Sam Prattley, Angus Ta'avao, Hayden Triggs, Steven Luatua, Piri Weepu, Ihaia West, Pita Ahki.

- APNZ

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