All Blacks Akira Ioane and George Moala join guest star Carlos Spencer in the Blues team to contest the Brisbane Global 10s tournament this Friday and Saturday.
The 22-strong squad, announced today by coach Tana Umaga, also includes teenage talent Caleb Clarke, who returns after playing for the All Blacks Sevens team in the World Cup tournaments in Sydney and Hamilton.
The Blues team will be led by 46-game Super Rugby loose forward-lock, Jimmy Tupou.
There’s plenty of exciting running talent with the likes of brilliant outside backs Melani Nanai and Jordan Trainor, outstanding North Harbour loose forward Murphy Taramai, who joins fellow former All Black Sevens representatives with Antonia Kirikiri and Jonathan Ruru.
The Blues will also unleash some young players for the future in New Zealand Under-20 players Jacob Pierce, Dalton Papalii, Tamati Tua and Orbyn Leger.
“It is a good occasion which the players really enjoyed last year,” said Umaga. “We are going there to enjoy this opportunity and produce some good rugby.
“At the same time it will play a key part in our preparations for the upcoming Super Rugby season and have some goals to achieve while the rest of the squad are preparing at home.
“We are bringing some players who are exciting runners given some space and opportunity. We are keen to play a physical and open running game that will both effective and also attractive.”
Umaga said the young players, especially, will be able to learn much from having Spencer in the team environment.
“Carlos is an iconic player who is still capable of performing on the field. He is also developing into an excellent coach, so our players have a unique opportunity to learn from him.”
Players not considered for selection because of injury include Otere Black, Michael Collins, Blake Gibson, Matt Moulds, Stephen Perofeta, Kara Pryor, Matt Johnson, James Parsons, Jerome Kaino, Scott Scrafton, Leni Apisai, Josh Goodhue, Dan Kirkpatrick, Sione Mafileo, Isaac Salmon.
Goodhue, Kirkpatrick and Perofeta received injuries in the pre-season game against the Chiefs, with Perofeta likely to be out for six weeks with a slight fracture in his hand, while Johnson will be replaced in the team for the season due to a medical condition.
The team is: Caleb Clarke, Kurt Eklund, Jordan Hyland, Akira Ioane, Antonio Kiri Kiri, Orbyn Leger, George Moala, Melani Nanai, Sam Nock, Jordan Olsen, Dalton Papalii, Jacob Pierce, Marcel Renata, Jonathan Ruru, Hoskins Sotutu, Carlos Spencer, Michael Tamoaieta, Murphy Taramai, Tanielu Tele’a, Jordan Trainor, Tamati Tua, Jimmy Tupou (Captain).
Coaches: Tana Umaga, Steve Jackson.