Rugby: Two changes to Blues for Highlanders match

The Blues today made two injury-related changes to their starting side for their final regular season Super 15 match against the Highlanders in Auckland on Friday night.

Lachie Munro comes on to the left wing for Rene Ranger, who had been ruled out of the rest of the competition with a hamstring tear.

Ranger sustained the injury in the Blues' 23-16 loss last weekend to the Crusaders in Timaru, where he scored a try but then had to leave the field on the half-hour mark, At halfback, Chris Smylie replaces regular starter Alby Mathewson, who is listed among the reserves.

Coach Pat Lam said Mathewson was recovering from a head knock.

While medical staff were confident that Mathewson would be right by game time, the player would not be taking part in the team's main training session of the week today.

Lam said confirming Smylie in the No 9 jersey would allow the Blues to prepare with certainty in that position.

He also said there had been thought of putting loose forward Daniel Braid, who has spent an extended spell on the sidelines with a neck complaint, on the bench.

However, it was decided that Braid would play Auckland club rugby for University instead this weekend.

The Blues, who lost top spot in the New Zealand conference with their defeat to the Crusaders, need two points against the Highlanders to guarantee their place in the playoffs.

Blues: Jared Payne, Joe Rokocoko, Benson Stanley, Luke McAlister, Lachie Munro, Stephen Brett, Chris Smylie, Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Jerome Kaino, Ali Williams, Anthony Boric, John Afoa, Keven Mealamu (captain), Charlie Faumuina. Reserves: Tom McCartney, Tevita Mailau, Chris Lowrey, Sean Polwart, Alby Mathewson, Winston Stanley, Sherwin Stowers.

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