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The Blues have been dealt a major blow ahead of their blockbuster quarter-final with the Waratahs at Eden Park on Friday night.

All Blacks winger Caleb Clarke will miss the match due to a leg injury, and veteran lock Patrick Tuipulotu has also been ruled out for the rest of the season with an arm injury.

But it isn’t all bad news.

Beauden Barrett is back.

The playmaker sustained a cut to his heel against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane last month, but has been named in the No. 10 jersey to face the Tahs.

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All Black Hoskins Sotutu is also back at No. 8 after a week off, and fan-favourite Tom Robinson shifts from the backrow to lock.

“We were in early this week to get clarity for what we want to achieve against the Waratahs,” coach Leon MacDonald said in a statement.

“What’s happened in the regular season means nothing on Friday night.

“Knockout footy brings a special kind of intensity, it’s where we learn about players under pressure and we’re looking forward to putting on a performance for our home fans, our friends and families.

“You never want to face a team after a loss, they will be hurting and out to spoil our party at Eden Park.

“We’ve seen when they put it together, they’re a very dangerous outfit so we need to show up on Friday night prepared for a battle.”

Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Ricky Riccitelli and Nepo Laulala will start in the front row, while Robinson and James Tucker round out the tight five.

Akira Ioane joins fellow New Zealand internationals Dalton Papali’i and Hoskins Sotutu in a formidable loose forward trio.

“It’s a simple equation for us – win and we advance,” Papali’i said. “That’s all we want from this match and all we expect of ourselves.

“Finals footy brings out a different beats, you play for these big matches and big moments and the team are ready to stand up.”

Finlay Christie will line up alongside Barrett in the halves, while Bryce Heem and Rieko Ioane will combine in the midfield.

AJ Lam and Mark Telea will take their place on the wings, while in-form outside back Zarn Sullivan will run out in the No. 15 jumper.

The match between the Blues and Waratahs at Auckland’s Eden Park is set to get underway at 7.35pm NZST on Friday night.

Blues team to take on Waratahs

  1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
  2. Ricky Riccitelli
  3. Nepo Laulala
  4. Tom Robinson
  5. James Tucker
  6. Akira Ioane
  7. Dalton Papali’i (c)
  8. Hoskins Sotutu
  9. Finlay Christie
  10. Beauden Barrett
  11. AJ Lam
  12. Bryce Heem
  13. Rieko Ioane
  14. Mark Telea
  15. Zarn Sullivan

Replacements:

  1. Kurt Eklund
  2. Jordan Lay
  3. Marcel Renata
  4. Cameron Suafoa
  5. Anton Segner
  6. Sam Nock
  7. Harry Plummer
  8. Stephen Perofeta

Players not considered: Adrian Choat, Caleb Clarke, Sam Darry, Alex Hodgman, Tanielu Telea, Patrick Tuipulotu



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