Captain Pulu hopes to return in line-up to host Jaguares

Captain Pulu hopes to return in line-up to host Jaguares

The Blues hope to have some troops returning to reinforce their Super Rugby clash against the Jaguares at Eden Park on Saturday. With 19 players on the injured list last week, the Blues have named captain Augustine Pulu and Gerard Cowley-Tuioti for a return from injury, although captain Pulu is bracketed for Saturday’s clash.

They have lost two further players from last week with midfielder TJ Faiane out for at least two weeks with an ankle sprain and lock Patrick Tuipulotu, who has been unwell this week.

“It is definitely nice to see some players back out running with the team on the training field, but for those bracketed, it will depend how they come through our contact session this afternoon,” said head coach Tana Umaga.

“While our injured list has been well publicised, equally we do not want to rush players back, especially those who have been out of action for some time. We have a few who are close to full fitness but their long-term health and welfare is our main priority and we won’t rush them back.”

Others have been rewarded with good form in training with North Harbour prop Sione Mafileo having his first start while hooker Leni Apisai comes on to the bench after an excellent performance for the Blues A team against Japan A last week.

Northland’s Kara Pryor will need to come through training today after a knock in last week’s game and is bracketed with Dalton Papalii at loose forward.

Injuries to three key midfielders means that Rieko Ioane moves back to the midfield with Orbyn Leger while Tumua Manu, who scored a try off the bench in his debut last week, gets a start on the left wing joining Jordan Hyland on the right wing and All Black Matt Duffie starting at fullback.

In light of the injury situation, coach Umaga will name his reserves after training on Thursday.

Article updated Friday 27 April.

The team is:

1. Pauliasi Manu, 2. James Parsons ©, 3. Sione Mafileo, 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5. Josh Goodhue, 6. Dalton Papalii, 7. Kara Pryor, 8. Akira Ioane; 9. Jonathan Ruru, 10. Stephen Perofeta, 11. Tumua Manu, 12. Rieko Ioane, 13. Orbyn Leger, 14. Jordan Hyland, 15. Matt Duffie.

Reserves: 16. Leni Apisai, 17. Ross Wright, 18. Mike Tamoaieta, 19. Ben Nee-Nee, 20. Lyndon Dunshea, 21. Augustine Pulu, 22. Daniel Kirkpatrick, 23. Terrence Hepetema.

Injured players: Otere Black (knee – season), Blake Gibson (shoulder), Glenn Preston (groin, season), Sonny Bill Williams (wrist), Alex Hodgman (wrist), Scott Scrafton (leg – season), Daniel Kirkpatrick (ribs), Melani Nanai (ankle), Matt Johnson (surgery – season), Jerome Kaino (hamstring), George Moala (chest – season), TJ Faiane (ankle), Josh Goodhue (shoulder), Tamati Tua (hand), Caleb Clarke (appendicitis), Michael Collins (hand), Ofa Tuungafasi (knee). All Black stand-down: Patrick Tuipulotu (illness),