Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan has named a side featuring an intriguing mix of experience and youthful enthusiasm for tomorrow’s clash with the NZ Barbarians at Toll Stadium, Whangarei (kick-off 6.30pm).
With seven players away on All Blacks duties, two with the New Zealand Under 20s and several others sidelined through injury, the match will give a number of fringe players the opportunity to push their cases for inclusion on the plane to Perth to face the Western Force on June 28.
After a two week break from the Blues’ last match against the Hurricanes, Kirwan said it was good for the team to have a decent hit-out.
“It’s important to get the guys out playing rather than training all the time,” Kirwan said.
“It’s an opportunity to throw caution to the wind a wee bit and play with no pressure on. It’s also important to give some guys who haven’t had a lot of rugby the chance to push for the last three games.”
Hooker James Parsons will captain the side in the absence of regular skipper Luke Braid who is out injured.
A number of exciting up-and-comers from outside the Blues squad have been named in the team, including outside backs Melani Nanai and Nick Smith.
“It’s a huge opportunity for them,” Kirwan said.
“We like what they’ve done in and around the environment so it’s a case of saying ‘here’s your chance boys’ – they don’t have to set the world alight but they just have to stick to the game plan and show that they’re really keen to have a go and express themselves.”
The Blues team to face the NZ Barbarians at Toll Stadium, Whangarei on Friday (kick-off 6.30pm) is:
15. Albert Nikoro
14. Frank Halai
13. Pita Ahki
12. Matt McGahan
11. Melani Nanai
10. Ihaia West
9. Piri Weepu
8. Joe Edwards
7. Brendon O’Connor
6. Peter Saili
5. Hayden Triggs
4. Liaki Moli
3. Angus Ta’avao
2. James Parsons
1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi