Super Rugby 2019: Blues promote All Blacks props back into starting line-up

Blues coach Leon MacDonald has abandoned his successful ploy of bringing his All Blacks props off the bench - at least, for this week.

Now riding a four-game winning streak - their first since 2011 - the Auckland-based side haven't won a Super Rugby local derby on the road in six years and have a chance to end that drought against the Chiefs on Saturday.

But MacDonald has diverted away from the strategy that has served his side so well during their run.

Looking to build on last month's initial win over the Sunwolves, MacDonald named international props Karl Tu'inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi, along with lock Patrick Tuipulotu, among his reserves against the Highlanders, hoping their experience off the bench would carry the Blues home.

That ploy proved a masterstroke, with Alex Hodgman and Sione Mafileo holding their own against opposition starters, and Tui'inukuafe and Tuungafasi providing a potent one-two punch later in proceedings.

But over ensuing weeks, Tuipulotu has crept back into the starting XV, now joined by the powerful front rowers in the line-up against the Chiefs.

"With this opposition, we feel it suits what we're trying to achieve this week," says MacDonald.

"Both sets, if you want to call them that, are delivering, whatever way we cut that up, depending on what we want from our team in that game."

On this occasion, MacDonald will match an all-international starting front row of Tu'inukuafe-James Parsons-Tuungafasi against the Chiefs' Angus Ta'avao-Nathan-Harris-Nepo Laulala.

Tu'inukuafe also faces the team that gave him his big break last season, snatched from nowhere to cover front-row injuries and quickly promoted to the national side.

"Karl and Ofa are both excited about the game," says MacDonald. "Karl is pretty green to the game, when you think about where he's come from, so every day is a massive learning day for him.

"He loves that and enjoys rubbing shoulders with some of these guys, and definitely enjoys being coached by Tom [Coventry] as well.

"It's a breath of fresh air, when a guy like Karl comes in and achieves the way he has."  

With Sonny Bill Williams confirmed for knee surgery on Friday, the other notable absentee is flanker and co-captain Blake Gibson, who suffered a knee laceration against the Waratahs and may be out a couple of weeks.

"Blake's got a lot of stitches, so it's important we let the wound to heal properly," says MacDonald.

Fringe All Black Dalton Papalii replaces Gibson in the number-seven jersey.

Blues: 1-Karl Tu'inukuafe, 2-James Parsons, 3-Ofa Tuungafasi, 4-Patrick Tuipulotu, 5-Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 6-Tom Robinson, 7-Dalton Papalii, 8-Akira Ioane, 9-Jonathan Ruru, 10-Otere Black, 11-Rieko Ioane, 12-Ma'a Nonu, 13-TJ Faiane, 14-Caleb Clarke, 15-Melani Nanai

Reserves: 16-Matt Moulds, 17-Alex Hodgman, 18-Sione Mafileo, 19-Josh Goodhue, 20-Jed Brown, 21-Sam Nock, 22-Harry Plummer, 23-Matt Duffie


Join us at 7:30pm Saturday for live updates of the Blues vs Chiefs Super Rugby clash.

Contact Newshub with your story tips: