SBW among Blues to miss Qld Reds clash

May 31, 2017 - 1:14 AM Sonny Bill Williams is among half a dozen Blues topliners who will miss the Super Rugby clash with the Queensland Reds in Apia, Samoa on Friday.

Coach Tana Umaga has omitted regular starters in halfback Augustine Pulu, flanker Blake Gibson, winger Matt Duffie and centre George Moala with niggling injuries after a demanding month.

Additionally, dual international centre Williams has not recovered sufficiently from the knee injury that forced him off in last week's 16-16 draw with the Chiefs and prop Charlie Faumuina has tonsillitis.

The Blues will still have six All Backs on show including lock Patrick Tuipulotu, the in-form No.8 Steven Luatua and rising star Rieko Ioane.

Exciting midfielder Rene Ranger and captain James Parsons will also start, while prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi will come off the bench in Samoa's first-ever Super Rugby match.

Ranger, the six-test All Black, missed last year with a serious knee injury with his return this season cut short by a nasty ankle injury.

Loose forward Jimmy Tupou is another returning from injury, after a hamstring tear kept him sidelined him for half the season.

The Blues (6-6) are last in the tough New Zealand conference but ahead in the overall standings of the struggling Reds (3-9)

Umaga said playing a home game in Apia was a special occasion.

"We have a significant number of our club who have heritage in Samoa, including myself, and it's a privilege for so many of our team to return home to play in front of friends and family," he said.

Sione Mafileo and a returning Alex Hodgman have been rewarded for their excellent form, joining Parsons, Tupou, Luatua and Kara Pryor in a mobile loose forward combination.

Youthful Northland pivot Sam Nock makes his first start at halfback to spark a backline where Ioane - with nine tries this year - forms part of a dangerous back three alongside Melani Nanai and Declan O'Donnell.

Blues: Melani Nanai, Declan O'Donnell, Rene Ranger, TJ Faiane, Rieko Ioane, Piers Francis, Sam Nock, Steve Luatua, Kara Pryor, Jimmy Tupou, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sione Mafileo, James Parsons (captain), Alex Hadgman. Reserves: Hame Faiva, Sam Prattley, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Akira Ioane, Murphy Taramai, Billy Guyton, Stephen Perofeta, Jordan Trainor.

Source: AAP

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