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Super Rugby: Blues v Highlanders preview
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Ma'a Nonu, Jerome Kaino and Hayden Triggs all start for the Blues on Saturday when they host the Highlanders at Eden Park, live on Sky Sports.
The trio were all on the bench for the 40-30 victory over the Cheetahs last week but have been drafted in by head coach John Kirwan for the all-New Zealand Conference battle.
The return of All Blacks duo Nonu and Kaino to the first XV is a welcome boost for the hosts, with Kirwan always planning to use the pair in the home fixture.
"They're two World Cup winning All Blacks and it was part of the plan to get them out there against the Cheetahs last week and get them on the football field from the first whistle against the Highlanders," he said.
"I like the intensity they bring around the place and I like the way they go about their business. They're a bit uncompromising which is what we need against the Highlanders on Saturday."
Triggs earns his first start ahead of Tom Donnelly in the second row, while Tom McCartney gets the nod at hooker in place of James Parsons.
Peter Saili who has had a sore foot and been unable to take full part in training so Steven Luatua shifts to number eight and Kaino is in at blindside flanker.
Nonu's return means Jackson Willison shifts across to outside centre and George Moala moves to the wing. Tevita Li drops out of the matchday squad completely.
The Highlanders head on their travels looking to build on their 35-31 triumph over the Hurricanes at Forsyth Barr Stadium, a result that ended a two-match losing run.
They have made three changes to their line-up; Jarrad Hoeata comes into the second-row to partner Brad Thorn, with Chris King and Ged Robinson selected in the front-row.
There is also one alteration on the bench, prop Craig Millar taking the place of Matias Diaz amongst the list of replacements.
Blues: 15 Piutau, 14 Halai, 13 Willison, 12 Nonu, 11 Moala, 10 Hickey, 9 Hall; 1 Woodcock, 2 McCartney, 3 Faumuina, 4 Moli, 5 Triggs, 6 Kaino, 7 Braid, 8 Luatua
Replacements: 16 Parsons, 17 Tu'ungafasi, 18 Ta'avao, 19 Donnelly, 20 Saili, 21 Takulua, 22 Ahki, 23 Marshall
Highlanders: 15 Smith, 14 Buckman, 13 Fekitoa, 12 Burleigh, 11 Osborne, 10 Sopoaga, 9 Smith; 1 Kane Hames, 2 Ged Robinson, 3 Chris King, 4 Brad Thorn, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 6 Elliot Dixon, 7 Shane Christie, 8 Manu
Replacements: 16 Coltman, 17 Millar, 18 Fia, 19 Wheeler, 20 Ioane, 21 Tanaka, 22 Parker, 23 Treeby.
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|Friday 13th February|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Melbourne Rebels|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Reds|
|17:10||Lions vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 14th February|
|06:35||Blues vs Chiefs|
|15:05||Sharks vs Cheetahs|
|17:05||Bulls vs Stormers|
|Sunday 15th February|
|06:05||Waratahs vs Western Force|
|Friday 20th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Brumbies|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Waratahs|
|17:10||Bulls vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 21st February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Reds vs Western Force|
|15:05||Stormers vs Blues|
|17:10||Sharks vs Lions|
|Friday 27th February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Reds|
|11:00||Western Force vs Hurricanes|
|17:10||Cheetahs vs Blues|
|Saturday 28th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Brumbies|
|15:05||Bulls vs Sharks|
|17:10||Lions vs Stormers|
|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|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com