24 Feb 2016

Parsons to captain the Blues

10:04 am on 24 February 2016

Hooker James Parsons will captain the Blues in the absence of Jerome Kaino for their Super Rugby opener against the Highlanders at Eden Park on Friday night.

The Blues coach Tana Umaga.

The Blues coach Tana Umaga. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Kaino was suspended for a week for striking in their last pre-season game.

North Harbour prop Sione Mafileo has earned his first start, after two games off the bench late last season, alongside Parsons and Ofa Tu'ungafasi.

In-form loose forward Joe Edwards will start at number six in the absence of Kaino alongside the experienced Steven Luatua and Blake Gibson, a member of the winning New Zealand Under-20 World Cup side.

The Blues welcome back All Black lock Patrick Tuipulotu, who missed much of last season after surgery.

Japan World Cup star Male Sa'u will start at centre alongside All Black, George Moala who was the ITM Cup player of the year in 2015.

Jerome Kaino red carded in 2016 Super Rugby preseason game.

Jerome Kaino red carded in 2016 Super Rugby preseason game. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

North Harbour captain Bryn Hall has been named at halfback alongside Ihaia West after missing all of the 2015 Super Rugby season with injury.

The bench is full of game-breakers including All Black Charlie Faumuina, Sevens star Akira Ioane, former All Black Rene Ranger and experienced hooker Quentin MacDonald.

The Blues team is:

Ofa Tu'ungafasi, James Parsons ©, Sione Mafileo, Patrick Tuipulotu, Josh Bekhuis, Joe Edwards, Blake Gibson, Steven Luatua; Bryn Hall, Ihaia West, Tevita Li, George Moala, Male Sa'u, Melani Nanai, Lolagi Visinia.

Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Namatahi Waa, Charlie Faumuina, Akira Ioane, Kara Pryor, Billy Guyton, Matt McGahan, Rene Ranger.

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