Blues prefer Simon Hickey to Benji Marshall
February 27, 2014
Simon Hickey shone for Auckland in the 2013 ITM Cup © Getty Images
Brett McKay and Greg Growden discuss key talking points from round two
The Blues have opted for promising youngster Simon Hickey rather than Benji Marshall to fix their playmaking problems against the Crusaders on Friday.
The 20-year-old five-eighth will make his Super Rugby debut, replacing Chris Noakes, who was left out of the match squad in the wake of the opening loss to the Highlanders. Marshall was retained on the bench as an impact player, having trialled at five-eighth in the pre-season matches after his switch from the National Rugby League.
Sir John Kirwan compared Hickey with All Blacks pivot Aaron Cruden - they have both represented New Zealand at under-20 level - and Test great Grant Fox, saying Auckland's ITM Cup player of the year in 2013, a member of the Blues' wider training group, was ready for to step up.
"We just think that it's time to give him a chance and, if we want to create internal competition, we need to start that now," the Blues coach said. "He's had the same pathway as Cruden and he has the calmness of Foxy. He's a mature young man who's ready for the next step."
Inside centre Francis Saili's foot injury means 18-year-old Tevita Li comes in at right wing in a reshuffled backline, while Patrick Tuipulotu replaces Liaki Moli in the second-row and Sam Prattley replaces Ofa Tu'ungafasi at loose-head prop. Kirwan is optimistic that skipper Luke Braid will be fit to face the Crusaders after picing up an ankle injury in the defeat in Dunedin.
The bench features the inclusion of All Blacks front-rowers Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock, who were rested against the Highlanders.
Blues: Charles Piutau; Frank Halai, George Moala, Jackson Willison, Tevita Li; Simon Hickey, Piri Weepu; Peter Saili, Luke Braid (captain)/Brendon O'Connor, Steven Luatua; Tom Donnelly, Patrick Tuipulotu; Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Sam Prattley. Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Angus Ta'avao, Liaki Moli, O'Connor/Jordan Manihera, Bryn Hall, Benji Marshall, Pita Ahki.
The top ESPNfootytips Super Rugby tipster at the end of the home and away season wins $A2000, with the runner-up claiming $A1000. We also have a pair of Gold Class movie tickets for each weekly winner.
Best of all you and a mate could be heading off to Game II of the Bledisloe Cup series between the Wallabies and the All Blacks in Auckland. The prize includes flight, accommodation, transfers and match tickets. Simply enter your tips WEEKLY to make another entry in the competition.
Wales will be without Luke Charteris for Sunday's clash against England at Twickenham
Former Scotland international Kenny Logan has labelled performances under head coach Scott Johnson "rubbish", while also questioning the Australian's selection policy.
Arsene Wenger says Jack Wilshere will be out for eight weeks and admitted the fractured foot he suffered in England's game against Denmark on Wednesday is a bitter blow
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey are close to agreeing lucrative new contracts at the club
Brian O'Driscoll has called on Ireland's youngsters to live up to the standards set by his generation as he looks set to break the world record for Test appearances tomorrow.
Last year's thrashing at the hands of Wales was not the first time England have fallen to their rivals. Scrum Sevens looks at whether they have bounced back the following year
Who has scored the most goals in European club competitions?
With just two rounds left in the 2014 championship, the intensity cranks up a notch at Twickenham. Tom Hamilton previews the weekend's action
Australian Rugby Union officials in recent times have "lacked authority" when negotiating with New Zealand and South Africa, and they need to show "more backbone" when pushing national causes, Greg Growden reports
Brett McKay analyzes New South Wales' opening try against Queensland, and says we can expect to see the play, and variations on the theme, many times over in the coming weeks
Cristiano Ronaldo has played down his latest record, claiming landmarks come naturally to him
Eden Hazard believes he can surpass Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to be the best player in the world - but knows he needs to be twice the player he is at the moment to achieve his goal
Samir Nasri insists Arsene Wenger is a "magician" and believes criticism of his former manager about his lack of trophies is unfair
Mesut Ozil continued to face criticism as he was jeered by a section of Germany fans during his nation's 1-0 friendly win over Chile in Stuttgart
David Moyes was in attendance for France's 2-0 friendly win against the Netherlands in Paris on Wednesday to scout Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba as he considers how to rebuild his Manchester United squad
Join Gareth Davies, Ben Blackmore and Chris Park each week for the latest news, views and debate from the UFC
Once prone to putting his head down and looking the other way when walking past fans on the street, Andy Murray is finding lots of reasons to look them in the eye
'I'm glad that Vasyl Lomachenko is a pro and I'm also glad that he lost on Saturday,' writes ESPN's resident boxing expert Steve Bunce
The waiting is finally over after it was announced that 82-year-old Nick Bollettieri will be enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame later this summer