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Super Rugby Pacific finals teams for Auckland Blues vs Canterbury Crusaders at Eden Park

Blues captain and All Blacks flanker Dalton Papalii faces a fitness test after being named on the bench for the Super Rugby Pacific final against the Crusaders at Eden Park on Saturday.

Papalii was in career-best form before being struck down with appendicitis before the quarterfinal win over Highlanders. He was bracketed on the bench with James Tucker.

Blues coach Leon MacDonald said the team were thrilled that a 43,000 full-house will be in attendence.

“This is set for a great occasion and is an opportunity to seal an excellent season in front of a full-house at Eden Park. We know what is at stake and we have prepared well.

“That said, it is another game, and we need to buckle down, do the basics right, provide good front-foot ball for our backs, and focus on doing the basics right, with discipline both with and without the ball.”

Sam Whitelock’s return from a thumb injury is the only change to the Crusaders’ starting lineup against the Blues, while Quinten Strange comes onto the bench.

The Crusaders were boosted by the news that Pablo Matera has been cleared to play in the final.

“As far as finals go, it doesn’t get any more exciting than taking on the Blues at a packed-out Eden Park,” said Crusaders coach Scott Robertson.

Dalton Papalii of the Blues leads his team off the field ahead of the round 13 Super Rugby Pacific match between the Blues and the Queensland Reds at Eden Park on May 14, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Dalton Papalii of the Blues. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

“I’m proud of this group and the care they’ve shown this week to put themselves in a position to go and put a great performance on the field on Saturday night. We had a few sore bodies following the huge defensive effort last week, but everyone has come through the week really well and excitement is building towards Saturday night.

“We play for these games and the opportunity to represent the Crusaders region on the big stage – we know it’s going to be another step up but we’re really embracing the challenge in front of us.”

Queensland Reds and Wallabies No.8 Harry Wilson has revealed his tip for the final in this week’s The Roar Rugby Podcast

Super Rugby Pacific Final, Saturday 5.05pm AEST at Eden Park, Auckland

Blues (1-15): Alex Hodgman, Kurt Eklund, Nepo Laulala, Josh Goodhue, Tom Robinson, Akira Ioane, Adrian Choat, Hoskins Sotutu, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, AJ Lam, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Rieko Ioane, Mark Telea, Stephen Perofeta.

Reserves: Soane Vikena, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Luke Romano, Dalton Papalii or James Tucker, Sam Nock, Bryce Heem, Zarn Sullivan.

Crusaders (1-15): George Bower, Codie Taylor, Oli Jager, Scott Barrett (c), Sam Whitelock, Pablo Matera, Tom Christie, Cullen Grace, Bryn Hall, Richie Mo’unga, Leicester Fainga’anuku, David Havili, Jack Goodhue, Sevu Reece, Will Jordan.

Reserves: Brodie McAlister, Tamaiti Williams, Fletcher Newell, Quenten Strange, Corey Kellow, Mitch Drummond, Braydon Ennor, George Bridge.

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