Match details: Sunday 14 June, 3.35pm at Eden Park
Referee: Mike Fraser
Won: Blues 15, Hurricanes 17, draws 1
Last match: Blues 24, Hurricanes 15 (7 March 2020)
BEAUDEN IN BLUE
Sunday might seem like an episode of the Twilight Zone to Hurricanes fans when Beauden Barrett runs out not just in a blue jersey, but also with the number 15 on his back not 10. Barrett is an all-time Hurricanes great. He stands atop the club’s point scoring record and led them to their only title in 2016. But that will quickly be forgotten when he takes the field for the Blues on Sunday. Veteran broadcaster John Campbell has made his feelings clear by saying he will yell at Barrett that “he has the wrong jersey on” from the stands at Eden Park. The Hurricanes know they will need more than jibes from the crowd to contain the former World Rugby Player of the Year. As far as new team debuts go, they do not get any bigger than this.
While Beauden Barrett is grabbing the headlines for the Blues, the Hurricanes are boosted by a returning star of their own with Ardie Savea back after nearly eight months on the sidelines. It has been a long road back for Savea after injuring his knee in the Rugby World Cup semifinal loss to England in October last year. Coach Jason Holland said Savea would add impact in the final 20-30 minutes for the Hurricanes and joins fellow All Blacks Asafo Aumua and Vaea Fifita in a power-packed bench for the Hurricanes.
LOOSE FORWARD DILEMMA
The make-up of the Blues loose forward trio is one area that kept Head Coach Leon MacDonald up late at night before settling on Hoskins Sotutu at 8, Blake Gibson at 7 and Tom Robinson at 6. The talented Akira Ioane was the unlucky one to miss out with Dalton Papalii taking a spot on the bench. “It’s hard telling someone they’re not playing when they’ve done everything right, and Akira is one of those,” said MacDonald. “He’s come back and his skinfolds have never been so good, his fitness levels are great and he’s trained the house down. His time will come. He’s pushing and asking the right questions, and puts pressure on the guys who get the opportunity to really nail it.”
It has only been a few days since New Zealand dropped restrictions on crowd numbers at mass gatherings but already tickets have flown out the door with a combined crowd of over 60,000 expected at both Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night and Eden Park on Sunday afternoon. As of Friday afternoon, ticket sales were approaching 40,000 at Eden Park. Get in quick before ticket sells out and get your tickets HERE.
The Hurricanes have won their last five visits to Auckland to take on the Blues.
BLUES: Beauden Barrett, Mark Telea, Rieko Ioane, TJ Faiane, Caleb Clarke, Otere Black, Sam Nock; Hoskins Sotutu, Blake Gibson, Tom Robinson, Josh Goodhue, Patrick Tuipulotu (capt), Ofa Tu’ungafasi, James Parsons, Alex Hodgman. Reserves: Kurt Eklund, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Marcel Renata, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Dalton Papalii, Finlay Christie, Harry Plummer, Matt Duffie.
HURRICANES: Chase Tiatia, Wes Goosen, Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam, Jackson Garden-Bachop, TJ Perenara (co-captain), Gareth Evans, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Reed Prinsep, Scott Scrafton, James Blackwell, Tyrel Lomax, Dane Coles (co-captain), Fraser Armstrong.
Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Tevita Mafileo, Alex Fidow, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Vaea Fifita, Ardie Savea, Jamie Booth, Billy Proctor.