The Blues face a truly international season in the 2017 Investec Super Rugby Championship with the draw released today.
The Blues have the honour of launching the Investec Super Rugby Championship on Thursday 23 February with their season-opener against the Rebels in Melbourne.
The season includes back-to-back games in Canberra and Sydney plus one-off clashes against the Stormers in Cape Town and the Sunwolves in Tokyo.
These matches are part of a busy start to the season that culminates with the Blues becoming the first Super Rugby side to take on the touring British & Irish Lions at Eden Park on 7 June. The Blues are likely to have all players available for selection for this prestigious clash.
The Blues will host two visiting teams each from South Africa and Australia as well as local derbies against the last three New Zealand sides to win the Super Rugby Championship title in the Highlanders, the Chiefs and the Hurricanes.
“It’s definitely an exciting season for us. At home we are hosting some outstanding games including the current Super Rugby champions in the Hurricanes along with traditional foes like the Bulls and the Reds,” said Blues General Manager Commercial, Kym Aust-Howlett.
“While it will be important to focus firmly on the Investec Super Rugby Championship, but there’s no doubt that it will be a huge season with the match against the British & Irish Lions at Eden Park.
“Our improved form this year, some exciting players coming to bolster our side and the game against the British & Irish Lions all point to a great opportunity for fans to get on board with the Blues and enjoy the experience at the spiritual home of rugby at Eden Park.”
This year the Blues had to adjust to two byes in the opening nine rounds of the competition, but next season they won’t have their first bye until round nine, which comes with both advantages and tests.
“We did not start as well as we wanted this year and perhaps the byes were a contributing factor in our lack of continuity,” said coach Tana Umaga.
“Next year it will be important to start as we left off this year in terms of quality of performance if we want to be a factor in the competition.
“Our players will have to manage the travel factor with three games in Australia and one-off trips to South Africa and Japan which will be both exciting and challenging.
“We will definitely have the benefit of consistent competition in the opening two months although we will also need to ensure our players remain healthy and excited in this phase of the competition.”
The Blues will announce their final roster for the 2017 season late next month, as well as home match venues.
THE 2017 BLUES DRAW IS:
Round 1: Thursday 23 February vs Rebels (Away).
Round 2: Friday 3 March vs Chiefs (Away).
Round 3: Saturday 11 March vs Highlanders (Home).
Round 4: Friday 17 March vs Crusaders (Away).
Round 5: Saturday 25 March vs Bulls (Home).
Round 6: Saturday 1 April vs Force (Home).
Round 7: Saturday 8 April vs Highlanders (Away).
Round 8: Saturday 15 April vs Hurricanes (Home).
Round 10: Sunday 30 April vs Brumbies (Away).
Round 11: Saturday 6 May vs Waratahs (Away).
Round 12: Friday 12 May vs Cheetahs (Home).
Round 13: Friday 19 May vs Stormers (Away).
Round 14: Friday 26 May vs Chiefs (Home).
Round 15: Friday 2 June vs Reds (Home).
Round 21: Saturday 15 July vs Sunwolves (Away).