Rugby: Noakes dropped by Blues

Chris Noakes. Photograph by Richard Robinson.
Chris Noakes. Photograph by Richard Robinson.

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan has dropped Chris Noakes for their next match against the Crusaders at Eden Park on Friday, with 20-year-old Simon Hickey set to wear the No10 jersey.

Despite a lack of rugby following a neck operation, Noakes has paid the price for his lack of decisiveness in the 29-21 loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin.

Hickey, the New Zealand Under-20 playmaker and Auckland ITM Cup player of the year is in the Blues wider training group but has impressed Kirwan enough to believe he should be given an opportunity to guide the team.

"We think it's time to give him a chance,'' Kirwan said. ``If we want to create internal competition then we need to start that now.

"He's had the same pathway as [Aaron] Cruden and he's got the calmness of Foxy [Grant Fox] so I think he's a mature young man who's ready for the next step.

"I've got complete faith in him and he's ready. I told him to just get out there, do what you do and enjoy it.''

Francis Saili's broken foot means there is also a change in midfield, with Jackson Willison moving in one to second-five and George Moala moving from wing to centre. Tevita Li starts on the left wing.

Charles Piutau retains his place at fullback, with Benji Marshall on the reserves bench again.

Skipper Luke Braid has recovered faster than expected from an ankle sprain and is bracketed at openside flanker with Brendon O'Connor.

Patrick Tuipulotu starts at lock ahead of Liaki Moli.

All Blacks front rowers Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu make it only as far as the reserves bench after being rested last weekend.

There are changes at the Crusaders also, with Todd Blackadder dropping first-five Tyler Bleyendaal from the squad and fullback Israel Dagg to the bench. Tom Taylor starts at No10 with Colin Slade starting at fullback.

Blues team to play the Crusaders at Eden Park on Friday, kick-off 7.35pm is: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, George Moala, Jackson Willison, Tevita Li, Simon Hickey, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid/Brendon O'Connor, Steven Luatua, Tom Donnelly, Patrick Tuipulotu, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Sam Prattley. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Angus Ta'avao, Liaki Moli, Brendon O'Connor/Jordan Manihera, Bryn Hall, Benji Marshall, Pita Ahki.

Crusaders team to play the Blues at Eden Park on Friday, kick-off 7.35pm is: Colin Slade, Rob Thompson, Reynold Lee-Lo, Ryan Crotty, Nafi Tuitavake, Tom Taylor, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (c), Richie McCaw, George Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Tim Perry. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Nepo Laulala, Luke Romano, Matt Todd, Willi Heinz, Adam Whitelock, Israel Dagg.

- APNZ

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