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BrumbiesThe Brumbies have named an unchanged starting side Friday’s Super Rugby clash against the Blues having come through last week’s win over the Toyota Cheetahs unscathed.

On the bench JP Smith reclaims his spot as back-up prop with Allan Alaalatoa dropping out of the match-day 23.

Given the Blues strength up front and unpredictability in the backs, the game promises to be a massive battle which will test the Brumbies across the park.

Brumbies and Wallabies prop Scott Sio said his side would need to be on top its game to make and impact on Friday night.

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BluesBlues head coach Sir John Kirwan has named a Super Rugby team with 4 changes to the side that lost to the Chiefs for this week’s clash against the Brumbies at Eden Park.

3 Of the Blues 4 changes are in the forwards, as James Parsons comes in to replace Keven Mealamu at hooker and Patrick Tuipulotu replaces Hayden Triggs.

There will be blazer games (20 matches) for Patrick Tuipulotu and Ofa Tu’ungafasi with Sam Prattley playing off the bench.

On the flank the recently re-signed Steven Luatua is rotated to the bench and Luke Braid takes over at No 6. When Steven Luatua comes off the bench it will be his 44th game for the Blues.

Kirwan has opted for 2 openside loose forwards to start against the speedy Brumbies loosies.

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Steven Luatua

Steven Luatua

Outstanding loose forward Steven Luatua has pledged his allegiance to the Blues and New Zealand Rugby for a further 2 years.

The burly flank has re-signed through to the end of the 2017 season.

Luatua defies his 23 years, having already played 14 Tests for the All Blacks and 43 Super Rugby caps for the Blues.

He has a rich pedigree as a former New Zealand school representative and played in successive Junior World Championship-winning New Zealand Under 20 teams – in 2010 and 2011.

He made his provincial debut as a teenager in 2010, his debut for the Blues in 2012 and his All Blacks debut the following year in the 24 / 9 victory over France in New Zealand.

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Francis Saili

Francis Saili

Munster confirmed today the signing of Blues centre Francis Saili on a 2-year contract.

The 24 year-old has made 33 Super Rugby appearances for the Blues, scoring 5 tries, and represented Auckland in the NPC on 31 occasions.

Saili made his debut for the All Blacks against Argentina in September 2013 at Hamilton, and was part of the New Zealand Under 20 team that won the Junior World Championship in Italy in 2011.

Last November the Auckland native also featured for the Barbarians, scoring a try against Australia in Twickenham.

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Jerome Kaino

Jerome Kaino

Inspirational loose forward Jerome Kaino has committed himself for the next 3 years to New Zealand Rugby, the Blues and Auckland Rugby.

Kaino today announced he has re-signed to play his rugby in New Zealand until 2018.

It’s a major announcement for New Zealand Rugby, with Kaino the 1st current All Black to commit through to 2018. The news is also a significant fillip for the Blues following the announcement earlier this year that fellow All Black Charlie Faumuina has re-signed through to the end of 2017.

Kaino, 31, has been a powerhouse loose forward on the international and Super Rugby stage for many years. He was New Zealand Rugby’s Player of the Year and nominee for World Rugby Player in 2011 and played in every game of the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup victory that year. Kaino played 2 seasons in Japan before returning to play for the Blues last year and regained his place in the All Blacks.

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Sir John Kirwan

Sir John Kirwan

Blues coach John Kirwan knows his team must beat the Chiefs if they are to have any hope of contending for a play-off spot this season.

The Auckland side have made a horror start to the season, losing all 6 of their matches, and Kirwan knows that they must beat the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday to keep their feint play-off hope alive.

“We knew going in we had to win 1 of these 2 games away to stay in the hunt. We were hoping that was going to come tonight, so that doubles the pressure on next week,” the Blues coach said after the loss to the defending champion Waratahs on Saturday.

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Blues vs Lions

The Blues went down to their fourth-straight loss of the Super Rugby campaign on Saturday as they lost 13 / 10 to the Lions at QBE Stadium in North Harbour.

Errors aplenty, low confidence in attack and a failure to turn pressure into points cost the Blues as they crashed to a disappointing home defeat.

Meanwhile, the Lions will take their smash and grab victory with both hands as they head to the Crusaders with a tour win under their belt.

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Sir John Kirwan

Sir John Kirwan

The New Zealand media have turned on an iconic All Black in the wake of the Blues’ winless start to the Super Rugby season.

The Blues slumped to their 4th straight loss, a first for the 3-time former champions, after a willing and determined Emirates Lions team edged them 13 / 10 in Albany on Saturday.

The result, which leaves the Blues at the bottom of the Combined Log standings with just 2 losing bonus points to show for their efforts, has sparked calls for coach John Kirwan’s dismissal.

Under the headline ‘Blues lose to Lions, is Kirwan a goner?’ ONE News suggested that you can “hear the blades sharpening in Auckland”.

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Keven Mealamu

Keven Mealamu

Inspirational Blues and All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu will establish a new Super Rugby record in Saturday’s clash with the Lions in Albany.

Mealamu has been named in the Auckland-based team’s starting line-up which will be his 163rd appearance in Super Rugby. This will make him the all-time leader in Super Rugby, a mark he currently shares with retired former Reds, Force and Wallabies lock Nathan Sharpe.

It is the first game of the season for Mealamu who made his debut in 2000.

“Congratulations on becoming the most experienced player in Super Rugby history,” said SANZAR Chief Executive, Greg Peters.

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Rene Ranger

Rene Ranger

Explosive attacking back Rene Ranger is to return to the Blues next season and will be available to play for North Harbour in the ITM Cup this year.

The 28-year-old has gained an early release from his contract with French club Montpellier after 2 seasons.

Ranger scored 25 tries in his 65 Super Rugby caps for the Blues, enjoying 6 caps for the All Blacks. He has become a fan favourite with Jake White’s Montpellier side, scoring 6 tries in his first 15 games and helping the team enjoy a strong season in the European Club Championships this year.

He said his return to New Zealand is primarily for family reasons.

“Family comes first and that is the big motivator to return. I want to be able to help my mom more,” Ranger said.

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Hayden Triggs Red Carded for punching Duane Vermeulen

Hayden Triggs Red Carded for punching Duane Vermeulen

The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner SC has accepted a guilty plea from Hayden Triggs of the Blues for contravening Law 10.4 (a) Punching or striking, after he was sent off during a Super Rugby match at the weekend.

Triggs has been suspended from all forms of the game for 1 week up to and including 28 February 2015.

The incident occurred in the 24th minute of the match between the Stormers and Blues played at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on 21 February 2015.

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DHL StormersThe DHL Stormers got their 2nd win of the season, a 27 / 16 triumph over the Blues at a sun-bathed Newlands on Saturday.

It is a win that will be both celebrated and loathed.

The celebration will be for the 4 points on the standings. The negative side will be because the Blues were reduced to 14 men for 55 minutes and the home team should have won by a much larger margin.

The game was turned on its head in the 25th minute, when veteran Blues lock Hayden Triggs was spotted punching Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen – not once, but twice – and Red-carded, leaving his team a man down for a large chunk of the match.

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Hayden Triggs Red Carded for punching Duane Vermeulen

Hayden Triggs Red Carded for punching Duane Vermeulen

Veteran Blues lock Hayden Triggs will front up to a SANZAR disciplinary hearing, after he received a Red Card for punching during his team’s Super Rugby loss to the Stormers.

Triggs stands accused of having contravened Law 10.4 (a): Punching or striking.

It follows an incident that occurred in the 24th minute of the match between the DHL Stormers and Blues at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.

The case is to be considered in the first instance by SANZAR duty judicial officer Robert Stelzner.

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BluesBlues centurion and World Cup hero, Tony Woodcock, returns to Super Rugby for the first time in 8 months for Saturday’s opening round of the 2015 season against the Chiefs at North Harbour’s QBE Stadium.

Woodcock, who has played 110 times for the All Blacks, will earn his 140th cap for the Blues as he starts at loosehead prop.

The Blues will be led by new captain Jerome Kaino, with the All Black loose forward to play his first match since the winning northern tour late last year.

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Rieko Ioane

Rieko Ioane

Akira Ioane

Akira Ioane

Teenage star Akira Ioane and 17-year old teenage brother Rieko who was outstanding in the recent Wellington Sevens for New Zealand, have both been signed by the Blues.

Akira, the loose forward, a star of Sir Gordon Tiejens’ All Black Sevens team last year, could make his debut in Saturday’s opening game of the Super Rugby for the Blues who are at home against the Chiefs.

Ioane, who has been a trainee with the Blues for the past few weeks, was named as the fulltime replacement for Peter Saili who is now playing in Europe.

Akira, who was born in Japan, has rugby in his blood with his father Eddie a former Samoan international while mother Sandra played for the Black Ferns.

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Charlie Faumuina

Charlie Faumuina

All Black prop Charlie Faumuina has bucked the trend and re-committed to the Blues and New Zealand Rugby to the end of 2017.

One of the most mobile props in the game, 28-year-old Faumuina has established himself as a dominant and versatile tighthead, with the ability to play both sides of the scrum.

He has re-signed to play in New Zealand in 2016 and in 2017.

New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew welcomed Faumuina’s recommitment as a great result for the All Blacks and Blues.

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Peter Saili

Peter Saili

New Zealand flanker Peter Saili has signed for French Top 14 side Bordeaux-Begles, club president Laurent Marti confirmed on Friday.

Saili, 27, who recently left Blues after 5 years and 71 Super Rugby matches with the club, has penned a 2-and-a-half year deal with the western French side.

Saili, who will join his new club later this month, is the second Blues player to sign for Bordeaux after compatriot Luke Braid, who arrives next season for 2 years.

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George Moala

George Moala

Blues’ George Moala has been found guilty of assault with intent to cause injury and common assault following a nasty brawl in 2012.

George Moala was found guilty of assault with intent to injure. He was found not guilty on two other charges of assault.

The 12-person jury took about five hours to deliver its verdict at the Auckland district court but not before posing a question seeking clarification on the definition of intention.

On hearing the verdict for George Moala, family members and supporters of the Moala brothers in the courtroom sat in shocked, tearful silence.

The Moala family made no comment outside court, and neither did George Moala’s lawyer Paul Wicks.

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George Moala

George Moala

The Blues’ pre-season preparations continue to be disrupted by unwanted distractions.

The New Zealand Media and Entertainment services reported that Blues player George Moala went on trial on Monday for a late-night incident that took place more than a year ago.

This follows last Friday’s reports that the Blues’ Super Rugby pre-season training almost ended in disaster, when close to 30 players had to be fished out of the water by sea rescue.

According to the NZME report Moala is on trial for an attack on two men in a boozy nightclub brawl. He stands accused of having continued the assault on one as he was carried away, bleeding profusely.

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BluesThe Blues’ Super Rugby pre-season training almost ended in disaster on Friday, when close to 30 players had to be fished out of the water by sea rescue.

This happened when a training session in the Hauraki Gulf went wrong, with two waka swamped by waves during a paddle from Takapuna Beach to Rangitoto Island.

The team had been planning to paddle nearly five kilometres across to Rangitoto in the Hauraki Gulf then run to the summit, but the training exercise was cut short.

The team tweeted about the embarrassing outcome of the pre-season trip – which, though unpleasant, did not cause any major problems.

Coach John Kirwan also issued a statement to the New Zealand media, confirming that all team members had escaped unharmed following the scare.

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Super RugbyWith Super Rugby fast approaching it is important to have a look at what each of the teams are doing in their preparations and who they have at their disposal.

As the teams prepare for this brusing competition there is the oppourtunity to test out combanations as well as see how the new boys go.

The Sharks will travel to French champions Toloun to test out their game plan against the Galacticos of rugby while the Bulls will take on the Cheetahs in a traditional pre-season match in Polokwane.

The Australasian sides will also warm up against each other with the Highlanders setting up a comprehensive pre-season schedule due to the first round bye.

The ‘transfer market’ has made the upcoming Super Rugby season an exciting prospect with some big names in James O’Connor and Nick Cummins returning to Australia.

Menawhile, the Bulls have bolstered their squad with some excellent former Cheetahs players.

Finally, and unsurprizingly, Ma’a Nonu has made another move – this time back to the Hurricanes.

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Luke Braid

Luke Braid

Jayden Spence

Jayden Spence

Versatile New Zealand back Jayden Spence is to join Bordeaux-Begles as cover while compatriot Luke Braid will arrive next season for two years, the French Top 14 outfit said on Sunday.

Spence, 23, who can play on the wing or in the centre, currently turns out for Otago in the domestic New Zealand league.

The 1.71m, 91kg back joins as cover for a Bordeaux side currently missing injured French international wing Sofiane Guitoune.

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Super RugbyIn preparation for Super Rugby in 2015, all 5 New Zealand Super Rugby franchises have named their squads for the tournament.

In the meantime, South African franchises will ponder about their squads and in December we at Rugby-Talk.com will speculate what the South African franchises will look like, as final squads will only be known in January 2015.

The same happens every year, New Zealand and Australia get their ducks in a row before the December break, whereas the South Africans seem to focus on December holidays, going to the beach, having Christmas and generally geting fat and lazy.

When can we ever expect the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and the South African Super Rugby franchises to ever catch up to the more professional attitudes displayed primarily by New Zealand… but also closely followed by their Antipodion counterparts, Australia?

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