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Williams benched, Braids return for embattled Blues

Published: 5:35PM Wednesday April 11, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

Ali Williams makes way for Liaki Moli in the Blues' starting XV for their match against the Sharks, while both Braid brothers return to strengthen the forward pack.

Wing Lachie Munro has been left out of the 22, with Hadleigh Parkes taking his place on the field.

Williams shone for the All Blacks during their victorious World Cup campaign last year, but has not been able to carry that form into the Super Rugby season.

Modest returns at lineout time and an indifferent start to the season as a ball-carrier has seen him move to the bench for the match on Friday night.

Luke Braid starts at blindside flanker, having served out a three-week suspension for striking a Stormers player in the back of the neck, while Daniel Braid will play on the other flank, returning from a one-match hiatus caused by illness.

"It's good to have both Braid brothers returning. Luke's work ethic and experience at the breakdown working alongside Dan is crucial to our game," Blues coach Pat Lam said.

Lam also praised Moli, who earns his first start of the season, saying he would provide "fresh legs and energy" to the forward pack, while Parkes, Lam said, was picked for his work rate and kicking ability.

Piri Weepu remains on the bench, as he continues to struggle with his fitness.

Despite earlier comments from captain Keven Mealamu hinting at frustration within the Blues camp that Weepu wasn't doing enough to rectify fitness issues, Lam was satisfied with the extra work Weepu had undertaken to return to full fitness.

"[Weepu's fitness] is not where it was when he was a World Cup hero, but he's better than where he was at the start of the season," Lam said.

Blues team:

15-Rudi Wulf, 14-Hadleigh Parkes, 13-Benson Stanley, 12-Ma'a Nonu, 11-Rene Ranger, 10-Gareth Anscombe, 9-Alby Mathewson, 8-Chris Lowrey, 7-Dan Braid, 6-Luke Braid, 5-Filo Paulo, 4-Liaki Moli, 3-Charlie Faumuina, 2-Keven Mealamu (c), 1-Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: Greg Moala, Michael Hobbs, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Ali Williams, Tevita Mailau, Tom McCartney.