Teenage Ioane starts for Blues against Highlanders

Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan has named teenage rookie Akira Ioane to make his Super Rugby debut for the Blues against the Highlanders on Saturday.

Ioane played in the All Black Sevens team last year impressing coach Sir Gordon Tietjens and the 1.9m, 110kg loose forward was given a late contract with the Blues

He gets his chance with Luke Braid not considered with injury and Steven Luatua rested after a heavy schedule.

Another young talent, Blake Gibson, a member of this year’s All Blacks Under 20 team to the Gold Coast next month, comes into the reserves.

The Blues also welcome back Jimmy Cowan to the reserves, after he was on leave for the birth of his second child, a daughter.

Cowan played more than a 100 games for the Highlanders, and joins Dan Bowden, Josh Bekhuis and Haydn Triggs as former players now taking on the Highlanders on Saturday.

Coach John Kirwan is also saving some firepower with All Blacks Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and Charlie Faumuina to come off the bench on Saturday.

There are a number of brackets with players coping with niggling injuries.

Blues

1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi , 2. James Parsons , 3. Angus Ta’avao , 4. Josh Bekhuis , 4.Patrick Tuipulotu , 5. Patrick Tuipulotu. 6.Akira Ioane , 7. Brendon O’Connor , 8.Jerome Kaino (c) , 9.Jamison Gibson-Park , 10.Dan Bowden , 10.Melani Nanai/Tevita Li , 12.George Moala/Francis Saili , 13. Pita Ahki ,14. Frank Halai , 15.Charles Piutau.

Replacements : 16. Keven Mealamu , 17. Tony Woodcock/Sam Prattley , 18. Charlie Faumuina , 19. Hayden Triggs , 20. Blake Gibson , 21. Jimmy Cowan , 22. Ihaia West , 23. Francis Saili/Hamish Northcott

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