Super Rugby 2020: TJ Faiane to captain Blues with Patrick Tuipulotu on All Blacks rest

TJ Faiane will captain the Blues against the Lions at Eden Park on Saturday afternoon.

The 24-year-old midfielder takes over from regular skipper Patrick Tuipulotu, who is taking the first of his two mandated All Blacks rest weeks.

The 30-test lock has arguably been the Blues most consistent player this Super Rugby season and appears to be relishing the leadership role, but won’t be able to front up this week.

"They asked for a plan real early in the year, about when we were going to rest him, so this was it," said assistant coach Tana Umaga at training. 

"Obviously, we're on a bit of a roll. It's not ideal, but it hasn't been ideal for every club.

"It's just something we have to get used to and it gives opportunities to other guys."

Faiane captained Auckland to the Mitre 10 Cup title in 2018 and is honoured to be given the job of leading the Blues out onto his home ground.

"'Rangi' [coach Leon MacDonald] pulled me in on Monday and told me I was going to skip this weekend," Faiane said. "I'm just privileged to be captain of a team I watched growing up. 

"Got big boots to fill, but I've got a good support team around me."

The backline features just one change to the one that beat the Hurricanes in Wellington last weekend, with English import Joe Marchant taking his first rest this season, replaced on the right wing by Matt Duffie.

Fresh from a rest week, impressive rookie No.8 Hoskins Sotutu returns to the back of the scrum in one of five changes to the forward pack, forcing Akira Ioane, who made his first start of the season against the Hurricanes, onto the bench.

"Haven't you seen how Hoskins has been playing before last week?" Umaga said, when questioned about the selection.

"He deserved a bit of a rest, but also he knows there's a bit of competition."

Prop Karl Tu'inukuafe limped out of training on Thursday with cramp in his left calf, but has been named to start at loosehead, while Ofa Tuungafasi is also taking an All Blacks rest week, replaced by Sione Mafileo on the tighthead side.

Gerard Cowley-Tuioti comes in for Tuipulotu at lock, Dalton Papalii's on the blindside flank replacing Tom Robinson and James Parsons starts at hooker, with Kurt Eklund dropping out of the gameday 23.

The Blues enter the match against the struggling Lions on a three-match winning streak, but they haven’t won a game at home this season, after losing to the Chiefs and Crusaders.

Kick-off is at the earlier time of 4.25pm.

Blues: 1-Karl Tu'inukuafe, 2-James Parsons, 3-Sione Mafileo, 4-Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5-Jacob Pierce, 6-Dalton Papalii, 7-Blake Gibson, 8-Hoskins Sotutu, 9-Sam Nock, 10-Otere Black, 11-Mark Telea, 12-TJ Faiane (c), 13-Rieko Ioane, 14-Matt Duffie, 15-Stephen Perofeta 

Reserves: 16-Luteru Tolai, 17-Joe Walsh, 18-Marcel Renata, 19-Aaron Carroll/Sam Caird, 20-Akira Ioane, 21-Jonathan Ruru, 22-Harry Plummer, 23-Emoni Narawa

Join us for live updates of the Blues v Lions Super Rugby clash from 4:25pm Saturday.