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Blues coach Vern Cotter has made 10 changes to the starting side that defeated Moana Pasifika last time out, with a quartet of All Blacks among those ruled out of their next clash with the Western Force.

New Zealand internationals Stephen Perofeta, Finlay Christie and Mark Tele’a have all been ruled out of the Trans-Tasman derby at Eden Park through injury, while team captain Patrick Tuipulotu is also set to miss the clash through concussion protocols.

Another six players were not considered this week for a number of reasons. Zarn Sullivan is one of them, with the fullback still recovering from a knee injury that he suffered during the drought-breaking win over the Crusaders last month.

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All Blacks flanker Dalton Papali’i will lead a Blues side which looks a little bit different this week as the Aucklanders look to improve their record to what they hope will be six wins from seven starts this season.

“With a short turnaround we’re lucky to have Dalton step in and lead the side,” coach Cotter said in a statement. “It’s a seamless transition given he captained at the start of the season and is a familiar voice in the leadership group.

“We’ve been giving plenty of the group game time this season and this week is no different.

“We know the Force are coming here to disrupt us so we’ve got to be fully focused on the job at hand on Friday night.”

Super Rugby centurion Ricky Riccitelli has been promoted to the starting side, and joins All Blacks Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Angus Ta’avao in the front row.

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Josh Beehre replaces team captain Patrick Tuipulotu at loosehead lock and will pack down alongside the ever-reliable Laghlan McWhannell to round out the Blues’ tight five.

All Blacks Akira Ioane and Dalton Papali’i return to the starting side after missing out on First XV honours against Moana Pasifika. The pair join Hoskins Sotutu in the loose forwards.

The Blues have turned to a new-look halves partnership with Taufa Funaki joining Harry Plummer as the playmakers, while Corey Evans and Rieko Ioane stand outside them in the midfield.

Caleb Clark, AJ Lam and Cole Forbes are the outside backs, but keep an eye out for former All Blacks Sevens ace Caleb Tangitau who has been named on the bench.

This clash at Eden Park is set to get underway at 7:05pm NZT on Friday night at Auckland’s Eden Park.

Blues team to take on Western Force

  1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
  2. Ricky Riccitelli
  3. Angus Ta’avao
  4. Josh Beehre
  5. Laghlan McWhannell
  6. Akira Ioane
  7. Dalton Papali’i
  8. Hoskins Sotutu
  9. Taufa Funaki
  10. Harry Plummer
  11. Caleb Clarke
  12. Corey Evans
  13. Rieko Ioane
  14. AJ Lam
  15. Cole Forbes

Reserves

  1. Soane Vikena
  2. Joshua Fusitu’a
  3. Marcel Renata
  4. Anton Segner
  5. Adrian Choat
  6. Sam Nock
  7. Lucas Cashmore*
  8. Caleb Tangitau

*potential debut



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