Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday 5.35pm (AEST)Last meeting: Round 7 2012 – Rebels 34 bt Blues 23 at AAMI ParkHead-to-head: Played 2 Blues 1 Rebels 1In Auckland: First meetingReferee: Garratt Williamson (NZL)TV: Live, FoxSports 2TAB Sportsbet: Blues $1.11 Rebels $6
Steve Samuelson writes: The Rebels have been no easybeats since their disastrous tour of South Africa but have scored just the one win in the past month. Blues coach John Kirwan has made no secret of his delight that Rebels fullback Kurtley Beale will be absent.
AAP writes: The Rebels’ chance of a breakthrough win after three consecutive last-ditch losses suffered a major blow with Wallaby Kurtley Beale being stood down again. After a star cameo off the bench when they almost toppled the Chiefs, Beale breached the guidelines of his return to rugby from a month-long ban by drinking over the weekend. Japanese Test hooker Shota Horie has won his first start for the Rebels.
The Blues were flat in their one-point win over the Stormers and coach John Kirwan has made five personnel changes and a midfield tweak. Speedster George Moala has been named on the wing among the changes while there is no Keven Mealamu, with a calf injury still causing problems.
BLUES: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, George Moala, Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Brendon O’Connor, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams (capt), Anthony Boric, Angus Ta’avao, Quentin MacDonald, Tim Perry. Reserves: Gafatasi Su’a, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Ronald Raaymakers, Luke Braid, Jamison Gibson-Park, Baden Kerr, Lolan Visinia.
REBELS: Jason Woodward, Tom English, Mitch Inman, Lachie Mitchell, Cooper Vuna, James O’Connor, Nick Phipps, Scott Higginbotham (capt), Scott Fuglistaller, Jarrod Saffy, Cadeyrn Neville, Hugh Pyle, Laurie Weeks, Shota Horie, Nic Henderson. Reserves: Ged Robinson, Paul Alo-Emile, Luke Jones, Gareth Delve, Nic Stirzaker, Angus Roberts, Bryce Hegarty