ALI WILLIAMS looks set to play his 100th Super Rugby game off the bench after he and fellow All Blacks Piri Weepu and Ma’a Nonu were relegated to the reserves for Saturday’s match against the Highlanders at Eden Park.
In the wake of the All Blacks training camp in Auckland last weekend, Blues head coach Pat Lam has decided to give the World Cup winners a breather and inject some much needed youthful energy and enthusiasm into the side.
Injuries have certainly forced Lam’s hand with no less than 11 players ruled out through injury, Benson Stanley becoming the latest casualty to join the ever expanding list after sustaining a concussion against the Crusaders. George Moala is another player who will sit out the rest of the season after undergoing surgery for a cut hand over the weekend.
While players continue to flock to the sidelines, there is no good news in sight with neither Keven Mealamu, Rudi Wulf nor Rene Ranger returning to action this week.
Hooker James Parsons and midfielder Francis Saili will both make their run-on debuts for the Blues alongside fellow Wider Training Group players Hadleigh Parkes and Steven Luatua, and Lam is looking for them to bring plenty of passion.
“Part of the selection is enthusiasm, excitement and energy,” Lam said. “We’re going to need that first and foremost against the Highlanders to get out there and really take it to them and we’ll then have plenty of experience and leadership coming off the bench.
“James Parsons has come off the bench five times now and shown some real energy and deserves an opportunity to have a run out there. We’ve also been hit with quite a few injuries to the midfield and Ma’a has gone non-stop so it’s a chance to give him a break and hand the opportunity over to Francis who was extremely excited when I told him.”
Super Rugby Round 14
Blues v Highlanders
Saturday, 26th May 2012 at Eden Park
Kick-off: 08:35 [GMT]
15. Hadleigh Parkes (WTG), 14. David Raikuna, 13. Francis Saili (WTG), 12. Michael Hobbs, 11. Sherwin Stowers, 10. Gareth Anscombe, 9. Alby Mathewson, 1. Tony Woodcock, 2. James Parsons (WTG), 3. Tevita Mailau, 4. Liaki Moli, 5. Filo Paulo, 6. Steven Luatua (WTG), 7. Luke Braid (C) / Daniel Braid, 8. Peter Saili / Luke Braid
16. Tom McCartney, 17. Angus Ta’avao, 18. Ali Williams, 19. Daniel Braid / Peter Saili / Dan Pryor (WTG), 20. Piri Weepu, 21. Ma’a Nonu, 22. Lachie Munro
Unavailable due to injury: Jerome Kaino, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Chris Lowrey, Anthony Boric, Brad Mika, Benson Stanley, George Moala, Isaia Toeava, Rene Ranger, Rudi Wulf