Midfielder Sonny Bill Williams will make his long awaited return along for the Blues alongside freshly re-signed All Black teammate Ofa Tuungafasi in Friday night’s clash with the Hurricanes at Eden Park.
Williams will pair up with Orbyn Leger, leaving All Black Rieko Ioane to move to the right wing
All Black prop Ofa Tuungafasi, who this morning re-signed with the Blues and New Zealand Rugby for another three years, returns to the front row, as the Blues look to end the Hurricanes eight match winning streak.
Tuungafasi missed three games and Williams six.
The other player to return off the injury list is outside back Melani Nanai who is listed in the reserves.
Northland prop Ross Wright, originally a short-term replacement in the pre-season, gets his second start and his ninth cap in a row after a strong performance against the Waratahs, to pair with Tuungafasi, leaving Pauliasi Manu and Sione Mafileo as powerful front row energisers.
In other changes, Murphy Taramai starts at loose forward with Dalton Papalii spelled with minor injury and illness.
Rookie Caleb Clarke, named today in the New Zealand Under-20 side, will enjoy his second start on the left wing with Matt Duffie retained at fullback.
“It is great to have Ofa back, and it is awesome for the team to know we have him for a further three years and Sonny has been fizzing to get back on the field,” said coach Tana Umaga.
“In the main we have the same team that played well last week. We will take confidence from that but we also understand we need to lift to another level this week for this big challenge.”
However one bullish punter clearly doesn’t think the All Blacks’ inclusion will help the hosts, they’ve put 100,000 dollars on the Hurricanes to win.
The heavy favourite Hurricanes are paying $1.23, meaning the punter would take home $23,000.
The Blues are $4 dollar outsiders.
It’s almost a year since the Blues won a Super Rugby game at Eden Park and they’ve beaten the Hurricanes just once in their last five outings.