Super Rugby: Blues name three All Blacks on bench against Crusaders

New Blues coach Leon MacDonald has opted to bring three of his All Blacks off the bench against two-time defending champion Crusaders in their Super Rugby opener.

Midfielder Sonny Bill Williams, along with props Karl Tu'inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi, will come off the bench at Eden Park on Saturday, due to minutes restrictions on international players.

Super Rugby coaches have been told front-line All Blacks can only play 180 minutes across the first three rounds and then must sit out two matches during the season as part of their World Cup preparations.

The trio, who didn't play any pre-season games, will also help the Blues with some second-half stability, as they have tended to struggle late in matches.

With Tu'inukuafe and Tuungafasi on the bench, Sione Mafileo and Alex Hodgman will start in the front row, with Ma'a Nonu and TJ Faiane combining in the midfield.

Fellow All Blacks Patrick Tuipulotu, Dalton Papalii and Rieko Ioane will start at lock, openside flanker and left wing respectively.

Otere Black has won the battle to start at first-five, with Harry Plummer set to debut off the bench. Stephen Perofeta wasn't considered due to a pectoral injury.

Number eight Akria Ioane will bring up his 50th match for the Blues.

The Blues last beat the Crusaders in 2014.

Blues: 1-Alex Hodgman, 2-James Parsons, 3-Sione Mafileo, 4-Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 5-Josh Goodhue, 6-Tom Robinson, 7-Dalton Papalii, 8-Akira Ioane, 9-Jonathan Ruru, 10-Otere Black, 11-Rieko Ioane, 12-TJ Faiane, 13-Ma'a Nonu, 14-Melani Nanai, 15-Michael Collins

Reserves: 16-Matt Moults, 17-Karl Tu'inukuafe, 18-Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19-Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20-Matt Matich, 21-Augustine Pulu, 22-Harry Plummer, 23-Sonny Bill Williams.


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