13 Apr 2017

SBW to start for Blues with new sponsors logo

9:52 am on 13 April 2017

Sonny Bill Williams will start for the Blues with a jersey devoid of two sponsors but adorned with a new one in Saturday's night Super Rugby clash with the defending champion Hurricanes in Auckland.

Sonny-Bill Williams looks on, during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Blues, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, 8th of April 2017.

Sonny-Bill Williams looks on, during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Blues in Dunedin. Photo: Photosport

Williams will have the logos of banks BNZ and Investec removed, with the BNZ logo on the collar replaced by Plunket NZ, who BNZ suggested take the space for the remainder of the season.

The Blues have named an almost unchanged side for their Easter clash welcoming back 33-Test All Black Williams as the only change to the starting line-up from last weekend's loss to the Highlanders.

The All Black front row of Pauliasi Manu, skipper James Parsons and Charlie Faumuina are backed by young locks Scott Scrafton and Gerard Cowley-Tuioti.

Steven Luatua is retained at No 8 after his contribution last week after returning from suspension, and joins fellow All Black Jerome Kaino and Blake Gibson in the loose forwards.

Williams will make his first start for the Blues at second five with Rieko Ioane at centre, which means that All Black George Moala will come off the bench.

Another All Black to provide impact off the bench is prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi, and if he plays, he will move to within one game of his 50th cap for the Blues.

Coach Tana Umaga said the team is looking forward to taking on the unbeaten Hurricanes.

"We are under no illusions that the Hurricanes will pose a tough test and we will need to be at our best for the whole 80 minutes," he said.

"We continued to make progress last week and for much of the game played well but could not quite get across the line. We need to continue that improvement in all aspects, especially our decision-making at critical moments."

The Blues team is:

1 Pauliasi Manu, 2 James Parsons (C), 3 Charlie Faumuina, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5 Scott Scrafton, 6 Jerome Kaino, 7 Blake Gibson, 8 Steven Luatua; 9 Augustine Pulu, 10 Piers Francis, 11 Melani Nanai, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 13. Rieko Ioane, 14 Matt Duffie, 15 Michael Collins.

Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 George Moala.