Papalii calls on home fans for Grand Final rematch

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The match doubles as a reunion for the 2003 Blues team and a chance to celebrate 20 years since their own Super Rugby victory against the Crusaders.

Blues Head Coach, Leon MacDonald, has shuffled the forward pack slightly for this weekend’s grudge match, while in the backs Mark Telea is the only change on the right wing after missing last weekend.

The bench features Soane Vikena, Jordan Lay, Taine Plumtree and Zarn Sullivan - all looking to get their first cap for 2023.

“It was a bruising encounter against the Hurricanes last weekend with a few sore bodies around Blues HQ at the start of the week,” said MacDonald.

“Motivation for this match wasn’t an issue; I know the boys still hurt from the final last year and want to put in a strong performance against a Crusaders side who we know will be hungry and determined.”

MacDonald also reflected on the 2003 final and joked how his allegiances have shifted this time around. 

“It’s funny how things change, I was playing in that 2003 final that the Blues won and now I’m very keen to see history repeat itself on Saturday night!” 

Blues Captain, Dalton Papalii, said after three weeks on the road, his team are looking forward to playing in front of their home fans.

“Home games are where you can defend your turf and make it a fortress. We’re aiming to do just that against the Crusaders,” said Papalii. 

“They always present a strong challenge so I would encourage the people of the Blues region to get along to Eden Park and be our 24th player on Saturday night.” 

Papalii also noted the impression past Blues players have on the group.

“It’s great to have the Blues Alumni involved with the club, it creates a strong connection between the past and present players. 

“We had Sean Fitzpatrick name our team this week and it was cool to hear about his time with the Blues and provide some motivation for this weekend against the Crusaders.” 


1. Alex Hodgman
2. Ricky Riccitelli
3. James Lay
4. James Tucker
5. Cameron Suafoa
6. Adrian Choat
7. Dalton Papalii
8. Hoskins Sotutu
9. Finlay Christie
10. Beauden Barrett
11. Caleb Clarke
12. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
13. Rieko Ioane
14. Mark Telea
15. Stephen Perofeta (50 Blues games)


16. Soane Vikena
17. Jordan Lay
18. Nepo Laulala
19. Tom Robinson
20. Taine Plumtree
21. Taufa Funaki
22. Bryce Heem
23. Zarn Sullivan

Players not considered:
Sam Darry (knee), Joshua Fusitu’a (ribs), Akira Ioane (knee), Sam Nock (calf), Patrick Tuipulotu (knee), Ofa Tuungafasi (concussion).

**KIDS GO FREE with a paying GA adult + look out for our new family seating zone at Eden Park**


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