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Blues v Force: Teams
At Eden Park, Saturday July 7, kick-off 8.35am
Captain Keven Mealamu will lead out the Blues for the first time in almost three months when they face the Western Force at Eden Park on Saturday.
The inclusion of Mealamu, who returns after recovering from a recurring calf injury, in the starting XV is one of four changes to the Blues side that took on the Chiefs in Week 15.
While Mealamu makes a welcome return, the Blues' injury woes have continued as outside backs Rudi Wulf and David Raikuna became the latest players to join the club's casualty list.
Ex-Blues star Orene Ai'i returns to where it all began as he looks set to make his first appearance in Blues colours since 2004, while promising New Zealand Sevens player Charles Piutau starts at full-back for his Super Rugby debut with less than a week's training under his belt.
There is also a call-up for lock Andrew Van der Heijden who will start against the Force, filling the void for the injured Ali Williams and Filo Paulo who has been suspended for the rest of the season.
Piri Weepu will start at half-back ahead of Alby Mathewson, while fellow All Black Ma'a Nonu is refreshed and raring to make an impact after enjoying a rare five-week break during the June Test window.
The Force have named a revamped back-row. Angus Cottrell returns to the side at openside flanker, while No.8 Lachlan McCaffery earns his promotion to the starting team from the bench.
Pocock's absence (groin) opens the way for Nathan Sharpe to resume his captaincy of the side - a position he held for the Force's first six seasons.
The other changes see ex-Blues centre Winston Stanley earn a call-up to face his former side, and Brett Sheehan return at nine for Josh Holmes.
The Force will feature a number of changes in their reserves with former Fijian Warriors representative Anare Koliavu joining prop Ruan Smith and lock Ollie Atkins in the quest for their Super Rugby debuts.
Hooker Ben Whittaker has been called into the matchday 22 replacing Elvis Taione, while Australian U20 fly-half Kyle Godwin will make his first appearance in the Force squad since returning from the IRB Junior World Championship in South Africa last month.
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Lachie Munro, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Michael Hobbs, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Luke Braid, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Andrew Van der Heijden, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Tevita Mailau, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Chris Lowrey, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Orene Ai'i, 22 Hadleigh Parkes.
Western Force: 15 Alfie Mafi, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Will Tupou, 12 Winston Stanley, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Ben Seymour, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Lachlan McCaffery, 7 Angus Cottrell, 6 Richard Brown, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Manu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Ollie Atkins, 19 Anare Koliavu, 20 Josh Holmes, 21 Kyle Godwin, 22 Patrick Dellit.
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|Friday 6th March|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Highlanders|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Western Force|
|Saturday 7th March|
|06:35||Blues vs Lions|
|08:40||Reds vs Waratahs|
|15:05||Cheetahs vs Bulls|
|17:10||Stormers vs Sharks|
|Friday 13th March|
|06:35||Hurricanes vs Blues|
|11:00||Western Force vs Melbourne Rebels|
|Saturday 14th March|
|03:30||Crusaders vs Lions|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Waratahs|
|08:40||Reds vs Brumbies|
|13:00||Stormers vs Chiefs|
|15:05||Cheetahs vs Sharks|
|Friday 20th March|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Hurricanes|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Lions|
|Saturday 21st March|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Cheetahs|
|15:05||Bulls vs Western Force|
|17:10||Sharks vs Chiefs|
|Sunday 22nd March|
|05:05||Waratahs vs Brumbies|
|Friday 27th March|
|06:35||Hurricanes vs Melbourne Rebels|
|09:00||Reds vs Lions|
|Saturday 28th March|
|05:30||Chiefs vs Cheetahs|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Stormers|
|08:40||Waratahs vs Blues|
|15:05||Sharks vs Western Force|
|Saturday 28th February|
|Lions 19 - 22 Stormers|
|Bulls 43 - 35 Sharks|
|Melbourne Rebels 15 - 20 Brumbies|
|Chiefs 40 - 16 Crusaders|
|Friday 27th February|
|Cheetahs 25 - 24 Blues|
|Western Force 13 - 42 Hurricanes|
|Highlanders 20 - 13 Reds|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Sharks 29 - 12 Lions|
|Stormers 27 - 16 Blues|
|Reds 18 - 6 Western Force|
|Highlanders 20 - 26 Crusaders|
|Friday 20th February|
|Bulls 13 - 17 Hurricanes|
|Melbourne Rebels 28 - 38 Waratahs|
|Chiefs 19 - 17 Brumbies|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Waratahs 13 - 25 Western Force|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Bulls 17 - 29 Stormers|
|Sharks 29 - 35 Cheetahs|
|Blues 18 - 23 Chiefs|
|Friday 13th February|
|Lions 8 - 22 Hurricanes|
|Brumbies 47 - 3 Reds|
|Crusaders 10 - 20 Melbourne Rebels|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com