The Blues has a more settled and experienced look to its team to take on the Crusaders in the Investec Super Rugby clash at Eden Park on Saturday night.
The change comes in the second row with Counties Manukau replacement lock Matiaha Martin selected for his debut, coming in for injured All Black Patrick Tuipulotu, to join Gerard Cowley-Tuioti. Fellow locks Scott Scrafton and Jimmy Tupou are out with season-ending injuries. Fellow locks Scott Scrafton and Jimmy Tupou are out with season-ending injuries.
There is a potent loose forward trio with Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii (bracketed with Murphy Taramai) and Jerome Kaino, who plays his 135th game for the Blues, closing in on the 137 caps achieved by Tony Woodcock, who sits second on the all-time list behind Keven Mealamu.
Melani Nanai, who missed five games with injury, comes back into the starting line-up on the right wing allowing Rieko Ioane to play on his preferred left wing, with the in-form Orbyn Leger again pairing with Sonny Bill Williams in midfield. Captain Augustine Pulu starts at halfback again inside Stephen Perofeta.
Michael Collins returns after missing four games through injury, listed on the bench that includes Northland captain Matt Moulds, who will earn his 20th and blazer game should he get on.
Coach Tana Umaga said he was pleased to welcome some of his experienced players back into the team, noting that Caleb Clarke has not been selected after receiving a slight knock in last week’s game.
He leaves the team on Sunday to join the New Zealand Under-20 squad before they fly out next week for the Rugby World Championship in France.
Umaga said that Martin had impressed since coming in as a replacement and earned his start
The match at Eden Park kicks off at 7.35pm with gates open from 6pm.
The team is:
15. Matt Duffie, 14. Melani Nanai, 13. Orbyn Leger, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 11. Rieko Ioane, 10. Stephen Perofeta, 9. Augustine Pulu ©; 8. Akira Ioane, 7. Dalton Papalii or Murphy Taramai, 6. Jerome Kaino, 5. Matiaha Martin, 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3. Ofa Tuungafasi, 2. James Parsons, 1. Pauliasi Manu.
Reserves: 16. Matt Moulds, 17. Ross Wright, 18. Sione Mafileo, 19. Ben Nee-Nee, 20. Murphy Taramai or Antonio Kiri Kiri, 21. Jonathan Ruru, 22. Dan Kirkpatrick, 23 Michael Collins.
Not considered because of injury: Otere Black (knee – season), Blake Gibson (shoulder), Glenn Preston (groin, season), Scott Scrafton (knee – season), Matt Johnson (surgery – season), George Moala (chest – season), Tamati Tua (hand), Jimmy Tupou (knee – season), Josh Goodhue (concussion), Isaac Salmon (hand), Patrick Tuipulotu (shoulder), Kara Pryor (ankle), Alex Hodgman (hand).