Super Rugby Preview: Blues v Sunwolves
Thursday, March 7, 2019 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
Won: Blues 1, Sunwolves 1
Last time: Sunwolves 10-24 Blues, Tokyo, April 14, 2018
Referee: Mike Fraser
The Blues have put their hardest game of the season, (the Crusaders) and their toughest tour (South Africa and Argentina) behind them, all with losses, and can set their sights on securing more wins, knowing that the competition has not got away from them yet. The Sunwolves have enjoyed their best start to the season with a 10-45 loss to the Sharks but then a close run with the Waratahs losing 30-31 and a first away win, over the Chiefs, 30-15 last week.
It was a bold call by the Blues management but giving Harry Plummer his first start at first five-eighths could be the start of an intense period of competition among the side's first five-eighths. Stephen Perofeta is still sidelined with a pectoral injury, but when he returns the competition with Otere Black should be intriguing. But for the moment Plummer has the full confidence of coach Leon MacDonald and it will a good test for the home grown five-eighths as he looks to stamp his authority on the side. Also back in the mix is flanker Blake Gibson, who before his run of injuries looked an outstanding prospect. If he can regain his best touches in time, the loose forward resources for the side look highly encouraging.
Round 4? | Will the @crusadersrugby extend their unbeaten run? Let us know how you think the New Zealand fixtures will go down this week.#RaiseTheStakes pic.twitter.com/Shk7M3GLfO— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) March 5, 2019
SUNWOLVES RING CHANGES
A confident Sunwolves side have made seven changes to their starting XV for the game. James Moore and Tom Rowe will lock the scrum while Shahei Matushashi will start on the openside flank. In the midfield Jason Emery will be more at home at centre after shifting from fullback which will be filled by Semisi Masirewa. Hayden Parker is on the bench while Rikiya Matsuda will start at first five-eighths. Jamie Booth will start at halfback
While it is the first time the two sides have met in New Zealand, the sides have shared their previous games. But weighing on the Blues will be the fact they have won only one of their last nine games at home.
The Sunwolves are the only team to have achieved a 100 percent goal-kicking success rate in the competition to date from 14 attempts at goal.
Blues: 1.Karl Tu'inukuafe, 2.James Parsons, 3.Sione Mafileo, 4.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5.Josh Goodhue, 6.Tom Robinson, 7.Blake Gibson, 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Augustine Pulu, 10.Harry Plummer, 11.Rieko Ioane, 12.Sonny Bill Williams (captain), 13.TJ Faiane, 14.Tanielu Tele'a, 15.Melani Nanai.
Subsitutes: 16.Matt Moulds, 17.Marcel Renata, 18.Lua Li, 19.Scott Scrafton, 20.Dalton Papalii, 21.Sam Nock, 22.Otere Black, 23.Levi Aumua.
Sunwolves: 1.Pauliasi Manu, 2.Atsushi Sakate, 3.Hiroshi Yamashita, 4.Tom Rowe, 5.James Moore, 6.Hendrik Tui≤ 7.Shuhei Matsuhashi, 8.Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 9.Jamie Booth, 10.Rikiya Matsuda, 11.Jamie Henry, 12.Michael Little (captain), 13.Jason Emery, 14.Gerhard van den Heever, 15.Semisi Masirewa.
Substitutes: 16.Nathan Vella, 17.Alex Woonton, 18.Asaeli Ai Valu, 19.Uew Helu, 20.Dan Pryor, 21.Keisuke Uchida, 22.Hayden Parker, 23.Phil Burleigh.
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