9 Mar 2017

Tana brings in the big boys to take on the Highlanders

11:50 am on 9 March 2017

The Blues have called in the cavalry for Saturday's Super Rugby game against the Highlanders at Eden Park, after their loss to the Chiefs last weekend.

Blues coach Tana Umaga has called up six All Blacks for their first start of the season.

Charlie Faumuina in action for the Blues 2017.

Charlie Faumuina in action for the Blues 2017. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Co-captains hooker James Parsons and flanker Jerome Kaino are named in the pack along with prop Charlie Faumuina and lock Patrick Tuipulotu.

There was a further change in the forwards, with North Harbour newcomer Murphy Taramai making his first Super Rugby start at number eight.

He will replace the suspended Steven Luatua.

Steven Luatua is shown a red card by referee Ben O'Keeffe.

Steven Luatua is shown a red card by referee Ben O'Keeffe. Photo: Photosport

In the backs, All Black George Moala comes in at second five and Rene Ranger on to the wing to replace the unlucky Piers Francis and Melani Nanai, who are on the bench.

Parsons will captain the side in his return after suffering from concussion early in the Mitre 10 Cup competition for North Harbour. He completed 40 minutes of action for the Blues development side last weekend.

Umaga said the team had welcomed back their All Blacks, who were now ready for starting action.

"Jerome and Patrick had delayed starts while Charlie has worked his way to excellent form, and both George and Rene impressed when they came on last week against the Chiefs," Umaga said.

"There's good depth in this squad and so there is going to be times when strong players won't get starts always."

Umaga said number eight Murphy has been rewarded for his excellent form in the pre-season and first two games, while Akira Ioane will provide his energy from the bench.

The team is:

Pauliasi Manu, James Parsons (c), Charlie Faumuina, Jimmy Tupou, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jerome Kaino (c), Blake Gibson, Murphy Taramai; Augustine Pulu, Ihaia West, Rene Ranger, George Moala, Rieko Ioane, Matt Duffie, Michael Collins.

Replacements: Matt Moulds, Sam Prattley, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Akira Ioane or Kara Pryor, Billy Guyton, Piers Francis, Melani Nanai.