The Highlanders and the Blues playout for the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy on Sunday with just 3 rounds left in Super Rugby Aotearoa. Both sides still have a chance to claim the remoulded Super Rugby competition but the home side need plenty of results to go their way in order to do it.
Aaron Mauger has kept faith with the team that scored a last gasp victory over the Chiefs, Bryn Gatland is the only new player included in the 23 but a key positional change will see All Black first-five, Josh Ioane, get his first start of the new season in the driving seat. The well-performed Mitch Hunt will move to fullback but will no doubt have some time at first receiver.
The Blues have named an unchanged squad to head south in search of the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy in their Super Rugby Aotearoa clash against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Sunday. The only change is a swap in the front row where All Black Karl Tu’inukuafe, fully recovered from a niggling hamstring, has his first start in this competition while hard-working Alex Hodgman will come off the bench after six straight starts.
What the coaches said:
“Mitch has been outstanding for us and has really flourished with regular game time. We are truly blessed with the standard of first-fives we have in our squad and I would be confident with any of the three of them at the helm. Josh deserves his chance though as he has worked very hard to get back to full fitness and we saw some nice touches from him against the Chiefs,” said Aaron Mauger.
"We have worked hard again this week and focussed on being more accurate and disciplined at the breakdown but at the same time we want to continue to be physical in the collisions. We have to get the job done upfront and give our backs the time and space to show their skills, be both patient as well as capitalise on our chances.” "Michael Collins has retained the centre spot having performed well against the Chiefs in that position, “Michael has been in good form, making good decisions and we believe he can make a real impact on the game from there” - Leon MacDonald.
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The Injury List:
Jared Page (hamstring), Stephen Perofeta (fractured foot), Tom Robinson (knee), James Parsons (concussion), Hoskins Sotutu (knee), Jared Page (hamstring), Dan Carter (calf). Season ending: Ray Niuia, James Tucker, Tanielu Tele’a.
Highlanders Injury List:
Nathan Vella (concussion), Nehe Milner-Skudder (shoulder), Ngatugnane Punivai (concussion)
Season-ending injuries: Sione Misiloi (foot), Thomas Umaga-Jensen (shoulder), James Lentjes (ankle), Conor Garden-Bachop (back), Sam Gilbert (knee), Josh Dickson (leg), Kayne Hammington (hand)
Ofa Tu'ungafasi 💥pic.twitter.com/9uzuCG8ePo— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) July 28, 2020