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PREVIEW: Blues v Chiefs

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

ROUND 14: Blues v Chiefs, Eden Park, May 26, 7.35pm

TALE OF THE TAPE
The Chiefs have moved well ahead of the Blues on the win-loss chart between the sides, enjoying a 17-10 advantage with 11 of the most recent having been consecutive. Earlier, in the season it was a 41-26 win in Hamilton for the Chiefs after the Blues were reduced to 14 men for much of the second half. Both sides suffered losses in their last outings, the Blues away to the Stormers 22-30 and the Chiefs to the Crusaders 24-31 in Suva. And both had enjoyed winning runs ahead of that with the Blues knocking over the Brumbies (18-12), the Waratahs (40-33) and the Cheetahs (50-32) while the Chiefs beat the Force (16-7), the Sunwolves (27-20) and the Reds (46-17).


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WEAR AND TEAR
Both sides have had their concussion concerns in recent weeks with the Blues being able to call on first five-eighths Piers Francis after he had been cleared from his incident in Cape Town last week but the Chiefs haven't been so fortunate with Sam McNicol, Charlie Ngatai and Stephen Donald not able to be considered. First five-eighths Ihaia West is still out for the Blues and Stephen Perofeta has been named for the first time this season on the bench.

MIDFIELD INTEREST
The midfield contest between the sides promises to be a key area of the game. The Blues second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams is in need of some good performances to demonstrate he is close to his best form over the next two rounds while the Chiefs go into the game with Johnny Faauli down on game time as a result of his suspension earlier in the season. Centres George Moala for the Blues and Anton Lienert-Brown are contenders for the All Blacks midfield and have plenty to play for as well. How they fit into the overall scheme of things on the night could go a long way towards deciding the encounter.

MEASURING PROGRESS
The Blues forward pack were under pressure from the Chiefs in their game earlier in the season, although in the pre-season game it had been the Blues that did the damage. However, as the Blues' results have improved during the season their forward pack has been more prominent. It will be a good test on Friday to see if they are able to continue that advance against a competitive Chiefs side that will be smarting after the pounding they took against the Crusaders. Lock Patrick Tuipulotu has had a mixed season but if able to take a lead from partner Scott Scrafton he would ensure plenty of grunt in the battle against Brodie Retallick and Dominic Bird.

TEAMS:

Blues:
1.Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2.James Parsons (captain), 3.Charlie Faumuina, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu, 5.Scott Scrafton, 6.Steven Luatua, 7.Blake Gibson, 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Augustine Pulu, 10.Piers Francis, 11.Rieko Ioane, 12.Sonny Bill Williams, 13.George Moala, 14.Matt Duffie, 15.Michael Collins.

Substitutes: 16.Hame Faiva, 17.Alex Hodgman, 18.Sione Mafileo, 19.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20.Kara Pryor, 21.Sam Nock, 22.Stephen Perofeta, 23.TJ Faiane.




Chiefs:
1.Kane Hames, 2.Nathan Harris, 3.Nepo Laulala, 4.Dominic Bird, 5.Brodie Retallick, 6.Mitchell Brown, 7.Sam Cane (co-captain), 8.Liam Messam, 9.Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 10.Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 11.James Lowe, 12.Johnny Faauli, 13.Anton Lienert-Brown, 14.Tim Nanai-Williams, 15.Damian McKenzie.

Substitutes: 16.Hika Elliot, 17.Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 18.Atu Moli, 19.Taleni Seu, 20.Lachlan Boshier, 21.Jonathan Taumateine, 22.Solomon Alaimalo, 23.Shaun Stevenson.