Blues Development team head coach Jeff Wilson has named an experienced and exciting lineup to face the Crusader Knights on Friday afternoon at Waitemata Rugby Club (kick-off 4.00pm).
Five members of the Blues squad and five Wider Training Group players will take the field alongside up-and-coming players from Northland, North Harbour and Auckland.
Wilson said the players were looking forward to taking the field in what will be the first hit-out of the year for many of them.
“I expect a lot of energy out there tomorrow, the guys can’t wait to get into it,” Wilson said.
The development squad is made up of players who were nominated by their provincial unions, the majority of whom have experience at ITM Cup level.
Wilson said he believed tomorrow’s game to be a step up from ITM Cup and that was an exciting prospect for some of the young players.
“We have a lot of young talent and tomorrow is a chance for them to take that step up. Hopefully they will show they have the skills to play at the top level.”
On the flip side Wilson said the five Blues players in their starting line-up would want to prove they deserve a spot in the top team.
“This is an opportunity for them to put pressure on the guys who were given the first chance in the Blues jersey, if they play well they could earn a trip to Africa in a week.”
Gareth Anscombe, Peter Saili, Filo Paulo, Liaki Moli and Angus Ta’avao will all look to build on their pre-season form when they take the field tomorrow.
Lock Filo Paulo has been handed the captaincy, and with 16 Blues caps to his name Wilson expects his experience to shine through.
“Filo has had some good performances for the Blues during the pre-season and is a great leader. We want the boys from the Blues to really lead the way tomorrow.”
Ponsonby teammates Gareth Anscombe and Wayne Ngaluafe are paired in the halves with some serious pace outside them, namely former New Zealand Sevens player Nafi Tuitavake and young Auckland winger Ben Lam.
The game against the Crusader Knights is the first of four for the Blues Development team.
They face the Chiefs Development team in Thames next weekend before games against the Fiji Warriors and Tonga A in the Pacific Rugby Cup tournament.
Blues Development v Crusader Knights
Friday 24th February, 4pm kick off.
The Blues Development team to play the Crusader Knights is:
1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
2. James Parsons (WTG)
3. Angus Ta’avao (BS)
4. Liaki Moli (BS)
5. Filo Paulo ñ captain (BS)
6. Cam Goodhew
7. Sean Polwart (WTG)
8. Peter Saili (BS)
9. Wayne Ngaluafe (WTG)
10. Gareth Anscombe (BS)
11. Nafi Tuitavake
12. Pita Ahki
13. Cory Aporo
14. Ben Lam (WTG)
15. Dave Thomas
16. Ross Wright
17. Taione Vaea
18. Stephen Luatua (WTG)
19. Nathan Hughes
20. Bryn Hall/Auvasa Faleali’i
21. Michigan Lam
22. Malakai Fekitoa
23. Irwin Finau
BS = Blues Squad
WTG = Wider Training Group