The Blues will take a largely unchanged line-up to Wellington to start the second half of Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa competition against the Hurricanes on Saturday.
A trio Bay of Plenty players are the only changes this week with Kurt Eklund and Aaron Carroll replacing the injured pair of James Parsons and Blake Gibson in the pack, while Emoni Narawa, who celebrated his 21st birthday this week, comes in for an unavailable Caleb Clarke on the wing.
The debut for 141-game Super Rugby veteran Dan Carter is on hold with the team taking the precaution to replace him on the bench after he was hampered with a minor calf twinge at training. His place in the reserves is taken by Matt Duffie while lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, back from injury, will celebrate his 50th game for the Blues.
Coach Leon MacDonald believes the side has taken plenty of positives from last week’s loss to the Crusaders into their clash with the Hurricanes on Saturday night.
“We did a lot of very good things at set phase and the collision area, and we produced some important front-foot ball. Hopefully the boys can take confidence from those positives into what will be another big battle this week,” said MacDonald.
“The Hurricanes are playing well and are renowned for their physical rush defence which we will need to counter.
“The nature of this competition means there will be injuries but that also represents opportunities for other players in the squad who have been working hard for their opportunity. Kurt and Aaron were both excellent when they came on last week, and Emoni has trained impressively in recent weeks to earn his chance.
“We have resisted any significant change in the backs. We are really pleased with how Harry Plummer is performing, while we believe Otere at first five and Beauden at fullback is our best option at present as they combine well.
The Blues team is: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Emoni Narawa, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Harry Plummer, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie; 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Aaron Carroll, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu ©, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Reserves: 16 Tolai Luteru, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tony Lamborn, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 TJ Faiane, 23 Matt Duffie.
Players not considered with injury: Jared Page (hamstring), Stephen Perofeta (fractured foot), Tom Robinson (knee), James Parsons (concussion), Hoskins Sotutu (knee), Jared Page (hamstring), Dan Carter (calf).
Season ending: Ray Niuia, James Tucker, Tanielu Tele’a.