Rugby: Braid back for Blues

Luke Braid returns from injury to captain the Blues against the Sharks at North Harbour Stadium on Friday night. Photo / Getty Images.
Luke Braid returns from injury to captain the Blues against the Sharks at North Harbour Stadium on Friday night. Photo / Getty Images.

Luke Braid returns from injury to captain the Blues against the Sharks at North Harbour Stadium on Friday night.

The openside flanker missed the last two games against the Chiefs and Reds with a shoulder injury, but after another week off with the bye Braid is back to full fitness.

"It was really important to make sure we gave Luke time to recover from his shoulder," Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan said.

"He's our leader and has been playing out of his skin for us so I think it's really good that he's back and he will give us good direction and leadership.''

Braid's inclusion ahead of Brendon O'Connor is the only change to the forward pack, while Charles Piutau's knee injury has forced a reshuffle to the backline, with Lolagi Visinia moving from fullback to wing and New Zealand Under-20 player Tevita Li starting on the left flank.

Pita Ahki will start at centre in place of the injured Francis Saili and Jackson Willison.
"Pita is one of our young guys we've been working hard with," Kirwan said.

"He's young but with the form of Lolagi it was an easy decision to put him to fullback for Charles who is out, and it puts Tevita back on to the wing who was strong for us early.

With Pita coming into centre it's a young crew but full of talent, ability and excitement."
Steven Luatua has again been named on the bench, with Braid, Jerome Kaino and Peter Saili the loose forward trio.

Blues team the Sharks at North Harbour Stadium, kick-off 7.35pm is: Lolagi Visinia, Frank Halai, Pita Akhi, Ma'a Nonu, Tevita Li, Simon Hickey, Bryn Hall, Jerome Kaino, Luke Braid (c), Peter Saili, Tom Donnelly, Patrick Tuipulotu, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: James Parsons, Sam Prattley, Angus Ta'avoa, Hayden Triggs, Steven Luatua, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ihaia West, Albert Nikoro.

- APNZ

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