Beauden Barrett to reach stunning milestone when Blues take on Drua

Playmaker Beauden Barrett will play his 300th first-class match on Saturday afternoon when the Blues take on the Fijian Drua in Lautoka.

Barrett will start at flyhalf as the Blues look to end the Drua’s unbeaten run on home soil in this year’s Super Rugby Pacific season.

Blues coach Leon MacDonald has made six changes to the run-on XV for this clash, which is set to get underway at 2.05pm NZST.

The Blues have been preparing for the “physical” clash with “heat fitness sessions” at training this week.

“We know these guys will be physical, we know the crowd will be loud and we know we’ll need to be at our best to come away with the points on Saturday,” MacDonald said in a statement.

“It’s no secret the Drua are a tough prospect at home – something we’ve already seen this Super Rugby campaign.

“We’ve tweaked a few things at training this week, including some ‘heat’ fitness sessions to simulate the conditions over there.”

Marcel Renata replaces Nepo Laulala at tighthead prop, while Fijian-born hooker Soane Vikena has been given the nod for his first start in a Blues jersey.

“I’m honoured and privileged to get my first start for the Blues and to do it in Fiji makes the occasion even more special,” Vikena said.

“When I was named in the team earlier this week, I was in a bit of shock! I’m not sure I paid too much attention to the rest of the names being read out!”

Dalton Papali’i is back at openside flanker this week, and will captain the team once again. The All Black hasn’t played since the Blues’ trip to Melbourne earlier this month.

As for the backs, Finlay Christie and Beauden Barrett will partner each other in the halves again in round 10.

Following his player of the match performance off the bench last weekend, Zarn Sullivan comes into the starting side at fullback.

The Blues are looking to become just the third time in Super Rugby history to score 50 or more points in three consecutive matches.

Captain Dalton Papali’i said the team is eager to “keep the momentum rolling” this week.

“It’s been pleasing to nail back-to-back wins,” Papali’i said. “We want to keep that momentum rolling as we head over to Fiji to take on the Dura.

“Having watched the video this week, we know the Drua have points in them, so our defence is as much a focus this match as anything else.

“We need to match them physically and that starts with us as a forward pack.

“We know it’ll be hot and humid and we’re going over there to bring out own kind of heat to the contest this Saturday.”