Rugby: TJ Faiane to make starting debut for Blues

TJ Faiane of the Blues. photo / Getty
TJ Faiane of the Blues. photo / Getty

After going off the boil in recent weeks, Rieko Ioane has been asked to cool his heels on the Blues bench for their Super Rugby match against the Force.

The demotion of highly-promising centre Ioane is one of two changes to the team for Saturday's match at Eden Park.

It is also the first real career setback for the 20-year-old sevens star, who played two Tests on last year's All Blacks tour to Europe and opened the Super Rugby season with a blistering hat-trick against the Rebels in Melbourne.

He has been less effective since, prompting Blues coach Tana Umaga to promote TJ Faiane to inside centre and shift the in-form George Moala to centre.

It will be a Super Rugby starting debut for Faiane, 21, the former schoolboy star whose early seasons of professional rugby have been crippled by injury.

He has made brief bench appearances in the last two games, including last week's 38-14 thumping of the Bulls.

Umaga's other change is at openside flanker, where Blake Gibson makes way after starting all five games this year.

In his place is the versatile Murphy Taramai, whose four appearances this year have featured one start, at No.8 against the Highlanders.

The Blues have suffered losses to three Kiwi opponents this season but will be encouraged that their two hefty wins have come against overseas opposition.

The Force, who are coming off a heavy loss to the Crusaders, have won just once in 10 clashes with the Blues.

Blues: Michael Colllins, Matt Duffie, George Moala, TJ Faiane, Melani Nanai, Piers Francis, Augustine Pulu, Jerome Kaino, Murphy Taramai, Jimmy Tupou, Patrick Tuipulotu, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons (captain), Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Matt Moulds, Ofa Tu'ungafasi/Sam Prattley, Sione Mafileo, Scott Scrafton, Akira Ioane, Billy Guyton, Ihaia West, Rieko Ioane.MORE MG

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