Blues lose Luatua for clash with Brumbies

The Blues have named their team to play the Brumbies at Eden Park on Saturday with Brendon O’Connor coming in for Steven Luatua.

Young flanker Luatua was ruled out of the Blues must-win match against the Brumbies after he failed to overcome a neck injury he suffered during last week’s loss to the Crusaders.

The 22-year-old, who was one of eight Blues players called into the All Blacks Wider Training Group earlier this week.

“He banged up his neck last week and it hasn’t freed up,” Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan said.

“We felt that he’d be playing at 80 per cent rather than a hundred and we’d like to put the athlete first. I made the decision and he’s not very happy about it but I’ve taken him out of the team.

“He’s got no real damage, he’s just had a pretty bad knock to the neck and shoulder and will be available for us next week.”

As a result Brendon O’Connor is promoted from the bench to start at blindside flanker.

Tighthead prop Angus Ta’avao tweaked his knee during training on Tuesday and has been bracketed with Sam Prattley. Ta’avao will have a run at today’s training session, with a call to be made on his availability later in the week.

The only change to the backline comes at second five-eighths where Francis Saili starts ahead of Jackson Willison.

“Jackson and Francis have been our form guys,” Kirwan said.

“I think Francis brought a real excitement to the game last week when he came on. We need him to step up with his vision and his verbals helping Noaksey out – looking up and making the right calls, but if he can bring his excitement and footwork then we’ll be really happy.”

Blues

15. Charles Piutau,14. Frank Halai,13. Rene Ranger,12. Francis Saili,11. George Moala,10. Chris Noakes,9. Piri Weepu,8. Peter Saili,7. Luke Braid,6. Brendon O’Connor,5. Ali Williams,4. Culum Retallick,3. Angus Ta’avao / Sam Prattley,2. Keven Mealamu,1. Tim Perry,

Replacements : 16. James Parsons,17. Sam Prattley / Ofa Tu’ungafasi,18. Anthony Boric,19. Kane Barrett,20. Jamison Gibson-Park,21. Baden Kerr,22. Jackson Willison

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