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Kaino set to skipper Blues

Thursday, April 03, 2014

AUCKLAND - Blindside flanker Jerome Kaino will skipper the Blues against the Brumbies in Canberra in his third Super Rugby match since returning from Japan.

The 48-Test All Black takes over from fellow loose forward Luke Braid, who will have a spell on the bench on Friday night after a heavy early season workload.

Coach Sir John Kirwan says 30-year-old Kaino is the best man for the job.

"Since he's been back he's really stepped into that leadership role, so it was a pretty easy decision really," he said.

"There are a lot of guys leading in the football team, which is a really good sign, but he has that mana."

Brendon O'Connor will wear the No.7 jersey in place of Braid in one of two changes to the starting 15 from the win over the Highlanders last Saturday.

In the backs, Jackson Willison, who starred at centre against the Highlanders, has been ruled out with a rib injury.

George Moala will shift into midfield, with impressive 19-year-old Tevita Li coming back in on the wing.

All Blacks midfielder Francis Saili, who has recovered from a foot injury, is included on the bench.

The Blues' shortage of locks — Culum Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu and Tom Donnelly are all injured — means loose forward Jordan Manihera comes on to the bench with starting No.8 Steven Luatua covering lock.

Kirwan said the Brumbies, who top the Australian conference, would pose a big challenge with their organisation, structure and physical approach.

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