Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Williams to set rare mark in final start

Ali Williams. Photo / Getty Images
Ali Williams. Photo / Getty Images

Captain Ali Williams will complete a remarkable record in his last game for the Blues on Saturday.

He has started every match this season in what will be his 16th for the year and 102nd game for the Blues before he leaves to take up a contract with Toulon.

Fullback Charles Piutau and wing Frank Halai are the only other Blues players who have been chosen to start every game since the series began against the Hurricanes in February.

The Blues final pool game against the Chiefs at Eden Park will also be a farewell for Rene Ranger and Anthony Boric and a debut for left wing Lolagi Visinia.

Visinia was a member of the national under 20 squad and has been picked ahead of the more experienced George Moala and Waisake Naholo.

Others selected who have had little matchplay this season are blindside flanker Kane Barrett, loosehead prop Sam Prattley and five eighths Baden Kerr.

The Blues have been battling for the last two months since they beat the Rebels 36-32 at Eden Park. Since then they have lost their last five Super rugby matches and the international match they played against France at North Harbour.

The Blues met their Chiefs neighbours in round five when they were beaten 23-16 at Mt Maunganui, in a match which was dominated by the hosts.

Regular blindside flanker Steven Luatua (shoulder), lock Culum Retallick (knee), five eighths (Chris Noakes (groin) and utility Albert Nikoro (knee) were not available.

Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, Lolagi Visinia, Baden Kerr, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili/ Brendon O'Connor, Luke Braid, Kane Barrett, Anthony Boric, Ali Williams ©, Angus Ta'avao, Keven Mealamu, Sam Prattley. Reserves: James Parsons, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Liaki Moli, O'Connor/Sean Polwart, Jamison Gibson-Park, Jackson Willison, Marty McKenzie.

- NZ Herald

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