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Backline boost for Blues

Published: 2:14PM Thursday May 31, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

  • Rene Ranger (Source: Photosport)
    Rene Ranger - Source: Photosport

Rudi Wulf and Rene Ranger will make a timely return from injury to face the table-topping Chiefs at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday night (kick-off 7.35pm).

The injection of the two former All Black backs is a huge boost for the injury ravaged Blues who will need all of their attacking potency to prise open the watertight Chiefs defence.

Wulf has shrugged off a recurring shoulder injury to play his 50th game for the Blues, while Rene Ranger has overcome rib damage to line-up on the left wing in a revamped backline for the local derby.

With Gareth Anscombe sustaining a season ending ankle sprain last week, Michael Hobbs moves in a spot to start at first five-eighths, while Lachie Munro replaces David Raikuna on the right wing.

Blues head coach Pat Lam has promoted All Blacks Ali Williams and Ma'a Nonu to the starting XV after they came off the bench against the Highlanders last week, however there is no recall for Piri Weepu as Alby Mathewson remains at halfback.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs won't be taking the Blues lightly as they look to consolidate their position at the top of the ladder.

The Blues are getting players back and are on the improve, said Chiefs coach Dave Rennie.  Games where the Chiefs play the Blues always have test match intensity and thats what were preparing for.

Rennie has made several changes to his side for the Saturday night clash. Flanker Sam Cane, fresh off the All Blacks wider training group camp gets a start due to Tanerau Latimers patellar tendonitis. Craig Clarke has a minor neck injury and both he and Latimer have not bounced back quickly enough for selection.  Clarke is replaced by Michael Fitzgerald. 

With four fit, in-form props to choose from, Dave Rennie has selected Chiefs top try scorer Sona Taumalolo and Ben Afeaki along with newly re-signed hooker Mahonri Schwalger for his starting front row.  Prop Ben Tameifuna is on the bench.

Maritino Nemani swaps places in the No 14 jersey with Lelia Masaga who moves to the reserves.  Lock Romana Graham gets his first call up for the season on the bench.  He is joined by loose forward Scott Waldrom and hooker Hika Elliot.

Blues: 15-Rudi Wulf, 14-Lachie Munro, 13-Francis Saili, 12-Ma'a Nonu, 11-Rene Ranger, 10-Michael Hobbs, 9-Alby Mathewson; 8-Luke Braid (C), 7-Daniel Braid, 6-Steven Luatua, 5-Ali Williams, 4-Liaki Moli, 3-Tevita Mailau, 2-James Parsons, 1-Tony Woodcock.

Reserves: Tom McCartney, Angus Ta'avao, Filo Paulo, Peter Saili, Piri Weepu, Hadleigh Parkes, David Raikuna.

Chiefs: 15-Andrew Horrell, 14-Maritino Nemani, 13-Jackson Willison, 12-Sonny Bill Williams, 11-Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10-Aaron Cruden, 9-Tawera Kerr-Barlow; 8-Kane Thompson, 7-Sam Cane, 6-Liam Messam (c), 5-Brodie Retallick, 4-Michael Fitzgerald, 3-Ben Afeaki, 2-Mahonri Schwalger, 1-Sona Taumalolo.

Reserves: Hika Elliot, Ben Tameifuna, Romana Graham, Scott Waldrom, Brendon Leonard, Robbie Robinson, Lelia Masaga.