Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Kerr returns for rare Blues start

Five eighths Baden Kerr returns for a rare Blues start in their must win match against the Highlanders. Photo / Getty Images.
Five eighths Baden Kerr returns for a rare Blues start in their must win match against the Highlanders. Photo / Getty Images.

Five eighths Baden Kerr returns for a rare Blues start in their must win match against the Highlanders.

Kerr lined up against the Bulls earlier in the season but for the rest of the tournament has been the backup to Chris Noakes.

Noakes was looking forward to a return tomorrow to Dunedin and a duel with his former Highlanders comrades however his mother's illness has kept him away from any training throughout this week.

There is still some doubt about Luke Braid's presence too because of a groin injury he picked up training on the side's slushy practice ground earlier this week.

Left wing George Moala has missed out because he ignored team protocol and Waisake Naholo will come onto the left wing.

There are two confirmed changes in the pack with former All Black lock Anthony Boric coming back for Culum Retallick and James Parsons starting ahead of All Black hooker Keven Mealamu.

That decision, coach John Kirwan explained, was no reflection of Mealamu's form after his recent strong work.

Instead it was the chance for Parsons to work through the entire week with his lineout jumpers and scrum while Mealamu was on duty at the national training camp.

Parsons was in strong form until he damaged his shoulder last month, an injury which left him out of the side for three games and a cameo return from the bench last week.

The rest of the side's All Blacks will start in a game the Blues have to win to maintain their push for a possible place in the playoffs.

This is a match where a stumble would be unthinkable if they want to keep that goal and, on the evidence of the Highlanders' wretched season.

They have a solitary win this year but a squad with a clutch of international hopefuls who are pushing for All Black squad and test places who know this is the stage to confirm or change the national selectors' thinking.

The Blues beat the Highlanders 29-18 when the sides clashed earlier in the season at Eden Park.

Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, Waisake Naholo, Baden Kerr, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid/Brendon O'Connor, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams , Anthony Boric, Angus Ta'avao, James Parsons, Tim Perry. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Sam Prattley, Culum Retallick, O'Connor/Kane Barrett, Jamison Gibson-Park, Marty McKenzie, Jackson Willison.

- NZ Herald

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