Sotutu rest gives Ioane opportunity

The Blues have handed Akira Ioane his first start of the Super Rugby season.

The one-match All Black missed out on a starting spot in the team's first five matches of 2020 thanks to the impressive form of 21-year-old Hoskins Sotutu.

But with Sotutu rested after the Blues back-to-back wins in South Africa, Ioane has been given the number eight jersey for Saturday night's clash with the Hurricanes in Wellington.

The selection was one of several changes to a Blues side on a short week after only returning from their successful trip to South Africa on Tuesday.

Head coach Leon MacDonald said the decisions were based on a finding from last year.

"At the beginning of the season I said that we would select on form, and that we over-played some players last year and their form dropped off as a result.

"Hoskins was selected at No 8 on form and has played exceptionally well for us. Equally Akira has been training hard. He is in terrific shape and raring to go now that he has his chance."

Sotutu wasn't the only loose forward to take a break, with Dalton Papalii sitting out his first mandatory All Black break.

The backline remained unchanged after a strong display against the Stormers, where Otere Black was impressive in guiding play from first-five.

"We enjoyed an excellent two weeks in South Africa but with some unexpected disruption travelling home has meant we will only get a couple of on-field training sessions this week," MacDonald said.

"That's not ideal but we will do our best to test our ability to be a more consistently competitive combination."

Meanwhile the Hurricanes gained two All Blacks for the match, with Jordie Barrett returning at fullback and hooker Dane Coles back from injury on the bench.

The only other change came up front, where Isaia Walker-Leawere got the nod at lock ahead of James Blackwell, who shifted to the bench.

Head coach Jason Holland said they had been spoilt for choice when it came to selection.

"We have a competitive squad, with a lot of depth.

"When we sit down early in the week to discuss the line-up, we're always faced with a challenge around who we pick and it's natural that one or two will be disappointed."

South African wing Kobus Van Wyk retained his starting spot after scoring three tries on debut in a big win over the Sunwolves last weekend.

The match will be the 50th in Super Rugby for midfielder Vince Aso.