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PREVIEW: Blues v Chiefs

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

MATCH DETAILS: Blues v Chiefs, Eden Park, 7.30pm, March 2, 2018

Played: 29
Wins: Blues 10, Chiefs 17, Drawn 1
Last match: Blues 16-16 Chiefs, Eden Park, May 26, 2017

TALE OF THE TAPE
The Blues have had a strengthening of their side with loose forwards Jimmy Tupou (starting) and Jerome Kaino (off the bench) returning to the pack while lock Patrick Tuipulotu has made the starting XV after easing his way back into the side off the bench last week. Sonny Bill Williams, who hasn't recovered from a knee injury will be missing from the midfield, providing a start for TJ Faiane. Up front Pauliasi Manu will start at loosehead with Alex Hodgman coming off the bench. Four changes have been made to the Chiefs side. Michael Allardice will be back at lock in place of the injured Dominic Bird while blindside flanker Liam Messam returns to a starting role. Sean Wainui will make his first start for the side on the wing while Shaun Stevenson has moved to fullback in place of the injured Charlie Ngatai.

QUICK TAP: BLUES NEED TO STEP UP - UMAGA

ALL TO GAIN FOR TUIPULOTU
Just how much lock Patrick Tuipulotu means to the Blues pack could be obvious by the time this game is over on Friday. A significant presence in the lineouts and in core locking duties, Tuipulotu has the added strength of capability with the ball in hand. Not only will be his pack be looking to him for guidance, the All Blacks selectors will be keen to see how much impact he can have, especially when up against such a formidable opponent as Brodie Retallick who looked a genuine force in the beaten Chiefs' pack last weekend.
SCRUM FACTOR
Having been on the end of some decisive Crusaders scrum power last week it would not be too hard to imagine where the Chiefs have been applying themselves ahead of Friday night's clash. Props Nepo Laulala and Aidan Ross, and hooker Nathan Harris, will be looking to set a better platform for their pack. But it won't be easy with the experienced Blues combination looking to make their own improvements. Manu and Ofa Tu'ungafasi at prop and James Parson at hooker stood up well in Dunedin against the Hurricanes but will be well of the Chiefs' need for improvement on Eden Park.

FAST FACT

The Chiefs are unbeaten in their last 12 games against the Blues, although in their last clash, in 2017, the result was a 16-16 draw. (Opta)

TEAMS
Blues: 1.Pauliasi Manu, 2.James Parsons, 3.Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu, 5.Scott Scrafton, 6.Jimmy Tupou, 7.Murphy Taramai, 8.Akira Ioane; 9.Augustine Pulu (captain), 10.Bryn Gatland, 11.Rieko Ioane, 12.TJ Faiane, 13.George Moala, 14.Matt Duffie,15.Melani Nanai.

Substitutes: 16.Leni Apisai, 17.Alex Hodgman, 18.Michael Tamoaieta, 19.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20.Jerome Kaino, 21.Sam Nock, 22.Daniel Kirkpatrick, 23.Michael Collins.

Chiefs: 1.Aidan Ross, 2.Nathan Harris, 3.Nepo Laulala, 4.Brodie Retallick, 5.Michael Allardice, 6.Liam Messam, 7.Sam Cane (captain), 8.Taleni Seu, 9.Brad Weber, 10.Damian McKenzie, 11.Solomon Alaimalo, 12.Johnny Faauli, 13.Anton Lienert-Brown, 14.Sean Wainui, 15.Shaun Stevenson.

Substitutes: 16.Liam Polwart, 17.Karl Ui'inukuafe, 18.Angus Ta'avao, 19.Mitchell Brown/Luke Jacobson, 20.Lachlan Boshier, 21.Te Toiroa Tahuiriorangi, 22.Tiaan Falcon, 23.Bailyn Sullivan/Declan O'Donnell.