Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Costly injury for Blues ahead of Brumbies match

The Blues have lost in-form blindside flanker Steven Luatua for their critical Super 15 clash with the Brumbies on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images.
The Blues have lost in-form blindside flanker Steven Luatua for their critical Super 15 clash with the Brumbies on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images.

The Blues have lost in-form blindside flanker Steven Luatua for their critical Super 15 clash with the Brumbies on Saturday.

Luatua, who attended the All Blacks training camp this week, is suffering from a neck injury and has been replaced by Brendon O'Connor for the match at Eden Park.

Luatua, along with captain Ali Williams, is the only forward who has started each of the 11 matches the Blues have played this season.

Young tighthead prop Angus Ta'avao is also troubled by some damage after the side's last torrid match with the Crusaders and has been bracketed with rookie squad member Sam Prattley.

There is one change in the backline with another national training camp trialist, Francis Saili, starting ahead of Jackson Willison in what must have been another of the close weekly selection decisions.

The Brumbies lead the Australian conference but have hit a flat results patch with just three wins in their last eight matches.

Now they have lost exceptional flanker George Smith and midfield back Pat McCabe until at least the resumption of the Super 15 once the June test series is finished.

The Blues have regained reserve hooker James Parsons after he had several weeks out with a neck problem and Kane Barrett fills the utility loose forward role on the bench.

The Blues are third in the New Zealand conference behind the Chiefs and Crusaders and will take a great interest in their duel tomorrow before their own match the following night.

The public interest will be how the Blues respond after eight of their squad were involved in the national training camp this week in Mt Maunganui.

Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, Goerge Moala, Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Brendon O'Connor, Ali Williams, Culum Retallick, Angus Ta'avao/Sam Prattley, Keven Mealamu, Tim Perry. Reserves: James Parsons, Prattley/Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Anthony Boric, Kane Barrett, Jamison Gibson-Park, Baden Kerr, Jackson Willison.

- APNZ

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