Rugby: Luatua to make debut for Blues against Crusaders

Steven Luatua
Steven Luatua
Wider training group loose forward Steven Luatua will make his run-on debut for the Blues when they face the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday night.

Luatua, 21, who became a full-time member of the Blues squad following injuries to Jerome Kaino, Brad Mika and Chris Lowrey, came off the bench last week against the Lions, but is relishing the opportunity of making his first start.

"When they named the team I was in awe and just thought 'what have I gotten myself into?''' Luatua said.

"But I was thinking about it last night and I'm really excited about the challenge. Playing the Crusaders in Christchurch, what better stage to make your starting debut on so I just want to go out there and do the jersey proud.''

Luatua will start at blindside flanker as Luke Braid switches to No8 in one of just two changes to the starting XV.

"Steven showed a lot of composure in a short amount of time when he came on last week and demonstrated his ability so it's a great opportunity for a young guy to get out there and make the most of it,'' Blues coach Pat Lam said.

In the only other change, Tevita Mailau slots into tighthead prop in place of Charlie Faumuina who suffered a grade two calf tear just days before being named in the 35-man All Blacks training squad.

For just the second time this season, Lam has been afforded the luxury of naming an unchanged backline.

Ten players in the Blues' squad for Saturday night's clash were not in the 22 when the two teams played each other in the opening round of the season, with nine now out injured - Kaino, Faumuina, Lowrey, Keven Mealamu, Anthony Boric, Brad Mika, Isaia Toeava, Rene Ranger and Rudi Wulf.

However, there are two All Blacks who did not face the Crusaders in round one who line up for the New Zealand derby in Tony Woodcock and Ma'a Nonu who will add some much needed experience and direction to a relatively young side.

Lam said he was expecting a fierce challenge from the fired-up Crusaders.

"It's certainly going to be a dogfight down there,'' he said.

"There's going to be a full crowd I hear and they're hurting, we're hurting but at the end of the day it's a Blues v Crusaders game and there will be plenty of feeling like there always is. It's a great opportunity for us to try and back up from last week.''

The Blues team to face the Crusaders at Christchurch Stadium on Saturday night, kick-off 7.35pm, is: Hadleigh Parkes, David Raikuna, Ma'a Nonu, Michael Hobbs, Benson Stanley, Gareth Anscombe, Piri Weepu, Luke Braid (c), Daniel Braid, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams, Liaki Moli, Tevita Mailau, Tom McCartney, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: James Parsons, Angus Ta'avao, Filo Paulo, Peter Saili, Alby Mathewson, Lachie Munro, Sherwin Stowers.


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