Joe Rokocoko back starting on wing for Blues

DAVID LONG
Last updated 13:44 24/03/2011
Joe Rokocoko
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax Media
SECOND SHOT: Blues winger Joe Rokocoko can force a permanent starting spot if he performs against the Chiefs on Saturday.

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The Rocket Man is set to return for the Blues and face the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.

Joe Rokocoko, a 68-test All Blacks winger, was initially dumped from the Blues 22 for last weekend's game against the Hurricanes. He only got a reprieve to play from the bench when Benson Stanley pulled out injured just before the game.

Rokocoko came on early in the second half at Eden Park and coach Pat Lam saw enough to put in back into the top 15 this week.

Lam said it came down to a battle between Rokocoko and Sherwin Stowers to start and he decided to give his more experienced player the nod.

''Joe was better (against the Hurricanes),'' Lam said.

''He's still got a way to go but it's fair to say that when I was weighing up him and Sherwin, Sherwin probably wasn't as good as he could have been, so Joe gets an opportunity.

''I've been watching him (Rokocoko) off the field and what he's doing and making sure the hunger and desire is there and it looks like it is.

''He's had a good chat with the All Blacks coaches and this is a big opportunity for him to take.''

Rokocoko in for Stowers is the only change to the 22 that convincingly thrashed the Hurricanes 41-17, although Stanley and Stowers are bracketed for the No 22 jersey.

Stanley is set to win that place if he comes through the rest of the week's training.

Anthony Boric will make his 50th appearance for the Blues.

The North Harbour lock has come a long way from being the shy, lanky player who made his debut against the Waratahs in 2006.

''He's grown immensely, we saw that on the All Blacks tour'' Lam said of Boric.

''He'll be the first to admit that he's been a slow starter, but he's come to the realisation that he belongs at that next level up and his game went up another level.

''He came back and trained here [with the Blues] earlier than normal and is reaping the rewards from that.''

Blues: Isaia Toeava, Rene Ranger, Jared Payne, Luke McAlister, Joe Rokocoko,  Stephen Brett, Alby Mathewson, Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Jerome Kaino, Anthony Boric, Kurtis Haiu, John Afoa, Keven Mealamu (capt), Tony Woodcock.

Reserves: Tom McCartney, Tevita Mailau, Teofilo Paulo, Mat Luamanu, Chris Smylie, Lachie Munro, Benson Stanley/Sherwin Stowers

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- Fairfax Media

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