Rugby: Blues hopeful Tuipulotu will be back

The Blues are hopeful of including lock Patrick Tuipulotu against the Rebels on Saturday. Photo / Getty
The Blues are hopeful of including lock Patrick Tuipulotu against the Rebels on Saturday. Photo / Getty

The Blues are confident their All Black lock Patrick Tuipulotu will be cleared to play against the Rebels at Eden Park on Saturday, despite bracketing him with Hoani Matenga today.

Tuipulotu, who is recovering from a broken hand suffered in the victory over the Jaguares on April 2, is likely to come through today's training and tomorrow's captain's run, according to coach Tana Umaga today. If so he will be named in the second row alongside Josh Bekhuis.

The only other change is the return of centre George Moala, a straight swap for Rene Ranger, who out for the rest of the year after rupturing an ACL ligament in the win over the Sharks a fortnight ago.

Moala, who scored a try against the Sharks soon after coming on for Ranger at Eden Park before last weekend's bye, will be glad of the opportunity. An All Black last year, Moala has struggled for opportunities with coach Tana Umaga preferring Piers Francis at second-five.

The game marks the final game this season for brothers Rieko and Akira Ioane before they move to the All Blacks sevens squad in the build-up for the Rio Olympics.

The match will be played at the earlier time of 5.15pm, supporters invited on to the pitch afterwards for autographs.

On Sunday morning the Blues will fly out for South Africa and games against the Kings and Lions. They also play the Force in Perth before returning for a home clash against the Crusaders in the final game before the break for the June international window.

Blues team to play the Rebels at Eden Park on Saturday:

Lolagi Visinia, Rieko Ioane, George Moala, Piers Francis, Tevita Li, Ihaia West, Bryn Hall; Steven Luatua, Tanerau Latimer, Jerome Kaino, Josh Bekhuis, Patrick Tuipulotu/Hoani Matenga, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons (c), Sam Prattley.

Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Nic Mayhew/Namatahi Waa, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Akira Ioane, Kara Pryor, Billy Guyton, Matt McGahan, Melani Nanai/Matt Duffie.

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