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PREVIEW: Sunwolves v Blues

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Thursday, July 13, 2017    allblacks.com    Getty Images

ROUND 17: Sunwolves v Blues, Saturday July 15, 3.05pm (NZT), Tokyo, Japan

FORM

The trickiest thing for the Blues will be overcoming a four-week break to travel to Tokyo for what is effectively a one-off game. The Sunwolves have not won a game since round seven but are game ready after playing the highly regarded Lions and Stormers over the past two weeks. 

QUICK TAP: PRIDE ON THE LINE FOR BLUES IN JAPAN

COACH’S WORD
Coach Tana Umaga said his side would not be holding anything back in their final game in 2017: “We know the conditions will be tough but we have prepared as well as possible for that. We have a number of players who will be in a Blues jersey for the final time and we want to honour them, as well as honour the Sunwolves in our first time in Japan by selecting our best possible team and playing good Blues rugby."

FOND FAREWELLS
The clash in Tokyo will mark the final game for departing stalwarts Charlie Faumuina and Steven Luatua. For Faumuina it will be his 99th match for the Blues while it will be Luatua’s 76th match. Both players have been named in the starting line-up and their departure will provide plenty of motivation for the Blues to put in a big performance. The match in Tokyo will also be the final for 45 game first five-eighth Ihaia West who will shift to the Hurricanes for the 2018 season. 



BENCH STRENGTH
There will be no respite for the Sunwolves late in the match with the Blues naming a powerful bench. 2015 Rugby World Cup winners Pauliasi Manu and Jerome Kaino will provide some grunt in the from the bench while youngsters Sam Nock and Stephen Perofeta will provide an eye to the future in the backs. Rene Ranger has been hampered by injury since returning to the Blues ranks so will be hoping for one last chance to impress from the bench.

FAST FACT
The Blues will become only the second New Zealand team to visit the Sunwolves after the Hurricanes blew them away 83-17 in the opening round of the season.

TEAMS
BLUES: 1.OfaTu'ungafasi, 2. James Parsons, 3. Charlie Faumuina, 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5. Scott Scrafton, 6. Akira Ioane, 7.Blake Gibson, 8. Steven Luatua; 9. Augustine Pulu, 10. Ihaia West, 11. Melani Nanai, 12. TJ Faiane, 13. George Moala, 14. Matt Duffie, 15. Michael Collins.
Replacements: 16. Hame Faiva, 17. Pauliasi Manu, 18. Sione Mafileo, 19. Josh Goodhue, 20. Jerome Kaino, 21. Sam Nock, 22. Stephen Perofeta, 23. Rene Ranger.

SUNWOLVES: Not available at time of publication