Auckland Blues

Tom Robinson to lead Blues again for big Highlanders clash

Head coach Leon MacDonald has made just one change to the starting XV that secured their third victory of the season, 27-17 over the Hurricanes, before last weekend’s bye, bringing in Jonathan Ruru to start at halfback, with Sam Nock dropping out of the 23 altogether and Finlay Christie returning via the bench. Regular skipper Patrick Tuipulotu is still unavailable as he nurses a neck issue.

Otherwise it’s an unchanged run-on XV, with the only other tweak among the reserves where veteran outside back Bryce Heem gets the nod this week ahead of rookie AJ Lam.

Blues name new captain for pivotal clash with Hurricanes at Eden Park

The second placed Blues, with two wins and two losses in their opening four games, will begin the second round of the competition following their 31-16 victory over the Canes in the opening match in Wellington.

Coach Leon MacDonald has made several changes after the disappointing loss to the Chiefs, although most of the Blues squad from that win in Wellington last month will take part this weekend.

All Blacks star Caleb Clarke could be off-limits for Blues as Olympics beckon

Tony Philp, New Zealand Rugby’s high performance sevens manager, is hoping May is the return date for New Zealand’s men’s and women’s sevens teams’ comeback to the international game.

Neither team have played in an international tournament since the Covid-19 pandemic halted their respective World Series last March.

Clarke is among a small pool of Super Rugby players eyeing an Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Games in July, but their commitment to Super Rugby Aotearoa means they’re not training under coach Clark Laidlaw with the men’s sevens team for the meantime.

Rokocoko reveals Crusaders approached the wing about a move south

With exceptional top-end pace, a sidestep to rival the greats and what seemed like a permanent smile painted on his face, it was hard to find fault with the flying Fijian – and the man who eventually graced the cover of revered video game Rugby 2005.

Despite all his obvious up-sides, however, there were times when the rocket man struggled for minutes with the Blues. In those early days, including in 2003 when the Blues last won a Super Rugby title, the Auckland-based side had outrageous depth in the outside backs.

Blues wing Caleb Clarke still driven to go for Olympic gold

Clarke, it is fair to say, is a man in demand after making his All Blacks breakthrough in stunning fashion through the abbreviated 2020 campaign, on the back of an outstanding season with the Blues in the inaugural edition of Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Blues clinical in five-try win

Otere Black marshalled the Blues attack well, scoring their first try after 10 minutes from a Rieko Ioane offload. He set up their second soon after, finding Ioane in space for a powerful run which was finished off with a try by Caleb Clarke.

Black converted both tries and added a penalty to give the Blues a 17-3 lead at halftime.

Fijian winger Emoni Narawa extended the margin with a try three minutes into the second half, as the Blues pack continued to establish their dominance, particularly at the set piece.

Blues squad given all clear

The Blues squad that played the Hurricanes remained in Wellington post-game, and yesterday all returned negative Covid tests.

It is bye week, so the squad has now dispersed and will officially reassemble at the weekend with training to re-start on Sunday at the temporary base in Cambridge, Waikato.

The remainder of the squad and staff that did travel to Wellington have relocated to Cambridge - and remain in a separate bubble awaiting the results of their Covid Tests - due back today.

If they are clear, then they too will be free to disperse.

All Black Nepo Laulala upbeat ahead of first season with Blues

The move didn’t go to plan, however, with Laulala suffering a horrific knee injury that kept him off the park for the entire season.

Heading into his first season with the Blues, Laulala will be hopeful that no such fate befalls him ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Hurricanes in Wellington.

“Unfortunately, I’ve had quite a few season-ending injuries, and I wasn’t able to pick up the games I probably should have,” Laulala said in the build-up to the opening weekend of Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Blues name eight All Blacks to face Chiefs and Crusaders in game-of-three-halves

After missing out in last week’s game-of-three-halves against the Chiefs and Hurricanes in Upper Hutt, Rieko and Akira Ioane, Patrick Tuipulotu, Caleb Clarke, Dalton Papalii, Nepo Laulala, Karl Tu’inukuafe and Alex Hodgman will play on Saturday.

In doing so, Laulala will make his first appearance for the Blues since signing with the Auckland franchise last year, and has been named to start against his former side, the Chiefs.

Chiefs come to party, host Blues, Crusaders in pre-season finale

The noon fixture (live on Sky Sport) will be played at Hautapu Sports in Cambridge and will be closed to the public – NZR level 2 operating protocols will apply due to the close proximity to Auckland and a desire to take maximum precautions ahead of next weekend's Super Rugby Aotearoa kickoff.