Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday 4.35pm (AEST)Last meeting: Round 2 2013 – Blues 34 bt Hurricanes 20 at Westpac StadiumHead-to-head: Played 20 Blues 12 Hurricanes 7 drawn 1In Auckland: Played 9 Blues 6 Hurricanes 3Referee: Jaco Peyper (RSA)TV: Live, FoxSports 2TAB Sportsbet: Blues $1.67 Hurricanes $2.10
Steve Samuelson writes: Despite his team scoring 41 points against the Waratahs, Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett has made changes to the backline. Samoan international Tusi Pisi is the starting five-eighth with Beauden Barrett dropping back to fullback. Andre Taylor has been dumped to the bench.
AAP writes: The Hurricanes have soared into fifth spot following four straight wins, while the Blues are only one point further adrift, making this a huge match. The news that All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina will miss the rest of the season with a calf injury is a huge blow to the Blues, while they’ll also be without suspended winger George Moala.
The Aucklanders beat the Hurricanes 34-20 last month, but the Canes will fancy their chances after showing their attacking spark against NSW. They have rejigged their backline, with Tusi Pisi taking over at five-eighth with the in-form Beauden Barrett moving to fullback.
BLUES: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Francis Saili, Jackson Willison, Rene Ranger, Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams (capt), Culum Retallick, Angus Ta’avao, James Parsons, Tom McCartney. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Anthony Boric, Brendon O’Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Baden Kerr, Albert Nikoro.
HURRICANES: Beauden Barrett, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (capt), Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Tusi Pisi, TJ Perenara, Faifili Levave, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Jason Eaton, Mark Reddish, Ben May, Motu Matu’u, Ben Franks/Reggie Goodes. Reserves: Dane Coles/Ash Dixon, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, James Broadhurst, Jack Lam, Chris Smylie, Reynold Lee-Lo, Andre Taylor.
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