Saturday, May 19, 2012

McCaw-Braid lock horns at unfamiliar No 8 17/05/2012 

The Blues have moved stand-in skipper Luke Braid to No 8 to face the Crusaders in Saturday night's Super Rugby matchup in Christchurch.
Braid gets his first start for the season at No 8 after covering the two flank positions hitherto, earning a head-to-head against All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw who has been shifted there today by the Crusaders.
Blues coach Pat Lam has tinkered with his loose-forward trio and made one injury-enforced change to his front row, but otherwise left intact the line-up that secured just the second victory of the campaign against the Lions last Friday night.
Lam has dropped Peter Saili to the reserves and replaced him with youngster and second-row specialist Steven Luatua who will play on the blindside flank.
Luatua was a lock for the world championship-winning New Zealand under-20 side last year and is part of the Blues' wider training group.
Daniel Braid returns to his accustomed No 7 jersey this week after starting at blindside flank.
The only other change to the Blues team that thumped the Lions 25-3 sees Tevita Mailau come in at tighthead prop to replace All Blacks training squad callup Charlie Faumuina who is out for up to six weeks with a  torn calf muscle.
All Black Keven Mealamu remains on the sideline as he recovers from a long-term calf problem.
Lam has retained his backline that hinted at a form turnaround against the bottom-placed South Africans, which sees Michael Hobbs stay at second five-eighths and Benson Stanley on the wing.
The Blues went down 19-18 to the Crusaders in their season-opening clash at Eden Park - the first of nine defeats for the beleaguered Auckland franchise this season.
The Crusaders have made seven changes to their team that went down to the Rebels in Melbourne last weekend, including the return of Dan Carter to No 10.
Most of the changes are in the backs, where Israel Dagg takes the fullback spot and Andy Ellis returns to halfback.
Adam Whitelock will start on the right wing this week while Carter's return to first-five means Ryan Crotty will slot in at second-five.
Kieran Read and Luke Whitelock were both unavailable for selection due to injuries sustained during last week's game. 
Read is still recovering from a heavy fall onto his pelvis, and Whitelock is being rested after a minor head injury.  
Tom Taylor is also unavailable for selection this week after a minor quadriceps strain.
Blues: Hadleigh Parkes, David Raikuna, Ma'a Nonu, Michael Hobbs, Benson Stanley, Gareth Anscombe, Piri Weepu; Luke Braid (capt), Daniel Braid, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams, Liaki Moli, Tevita Mailau, Tom McCartney, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: James Parsons, Angus Ta'avao, Filo Paulo, Peter Saili, Alby Mathewson, Lachie Munro, Sherwin Stowers.
Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Adam Whitelock, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Zac Guildford, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Richie McCaw (capt), Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Ben Franks, Tom Donnelly, Brendon O'Connor, Willi Heinz, Tyler Bleyendaal, Tom Marshall.

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