Super Rugby Pacific: Blues name unchanged starting line-up as skipper Dalton Papalii makes his return via the bench for the final

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Blues skipper Dalton Papalii makes his return to the field from the bench as coach Leon MacDonald names an unchanged starting line-up for the eagerly-awaited Super Rugby Pacific final against the Crusaders.

Papalii has been sidelined since having his appendix removed before the quarter-finals against the Highlanders and is looking to return to the field after being named in the All Black squad this week.

Hopeful return

James Tucker is on standby if his captain cannot make the full return for the blockbuster clash in the inaugural season of the extended competition.

MacDonald says there are still some formalities Papalii will have to go through before being cleared to play.

“Dalts has got a few boxes to tick,” said MacDonald. “He’s got to get through a big part of today’s training and feel really confident, it’s a big game for him to have any doubts, so we want him to come off the grass feeling like he’s ready to go.

“Speaking to him, he’s pretty confident, but that’s Dalts, he’s always like that and full of energy. Fingers crossed he gets through today well.”

Eden Park has been sold out for the showpiece clash, and MacDonald admits the atmosphere will add to the spectacle.

”It’s massive for us. We’ve got a great crowd here, they’re really vocal, and the sellout is going to be an amazing atmosphere. It’s going to be a great game – two good teams who want to use the ball, have a lot of firepower across the park, and if the weather plays its part, I think both teams will have a crack,” MacDonald said.

“You can’t avoid it,” he added. “It’s a little different, a final, especially as we haven’t been in a big final like this for so long, and the fact it’s the Crusaders. There’s a lot of hype around town. Every time you walk down the street somebody is wishing you well, which is awesome.

“We’re embracing it, enjoying our last week together as a group, it’s our last training run today (Thursday), and we’re just trying to enjoy this week as much as we can. Not too much changes. We try to keep things familiar because that helps keep the nerves down.

“There are a lot of layers to that. We’ve got our mental toolbox we use around controlling your nerves. But nerves aren’t a bad thing, nerves are there before a battle, and we embrace that. If you didn’t have nerves you’re probably in the wrong place, but you don’t want them getting out of control. There are a lot of different things we talk about to make sure you’re in the right frame of mind to contribute.”

Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 AJ Lam, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Beauden Barrett (c), 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Adrian Choat, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Tom Robinson, 4 Josh Goodhue, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Dalton Papalii/James Tucker, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Bryce Heem, 23 Zarn Sullivan

Date: Saturday, 18 June
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19:05 local (08:05 BST, 7:05 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Stu Curran (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)

READ MORE: Super Rugby Pacific: Crusaders name blockbuster lineup for the Blues final

The article Super Rugby Pacific: Blues name unchanged starting line-up as skipper Dalton Papalii makes his return via the bench for the final appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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