Halfback Augustine Pulu will captain the Blues in the 2018 Investec Super Rugby Championships.
Coach Tana Umaga said Pulu, along with previous captains Jerome Kaino and James Parsons, form part of the senior leadership group.
“Both James and Jerome are sidelined for some time from surgeries and I wanted our captain to take the reins on the paddock from day one of training.
“Of course both James and Jerome will continue to play invaluable leadership roles in this team and will be key contributors in all aspects.
“Augie has proven captaincy experience in the Mitre-10 Cup and will add a fresh spark to the team.”
Pulu has played 64 games in Super Rugby as well as representing New Zealand in Sevens at the Rio Olympics and has two All Black caps.
“It’s an honour to lead a club like the Blues. We have a good bunch of guys returning and some exciting new players coming in,” said Pulu. “With the help of the leadership group, I want to mould them into a strong team.
“I think we have made real progress in my time here and hope I can do my job as a player and as a captain for the Blues.
“We have to work so hard every day, on and off the field. I believe we can win the Super Rugby title – that’s my goal for the team.”
The Blues also announced that Ben Afeaki, the former New Zealand Maoris and All Black prop, has been appointed as scrum coach. He has enjoyed that role for North Harbour in the Mitre 10 Cup.
Four young players, all part of the Blues Under-20s and selected for the New Zealand Under-20 training squad, join the Blues for 10 weeks fulltime training as part of the Interim Training Contract scheme. They are Rob Cobb, Hoskins Sotutu, Harry Plummer and Tanielu Tele’a.
There are a further nine players who have joined as replacements for injured or for All Blacks and Maori All Blacks who are staged back into Super Rugby in January. The eight are Marcel Renata (Auckland), Ross Wright (Northland), Jacob Pierce (Auckland), Antonio Kirikiri (Manawatu), Lewis Gjaltema (North Harbour), Orbyn Leger (Counties Manukau), Sione Havili (Auckland) and Jordan Hyland (Northland).
The team began on-field training today and will continue until 20 December before the Christmas break, resuming on 8 January.
The Blues squad for 2018 is:
Hookers: Leni Apisai, Matt Moulds, James Parsons; Front row: Alex Hodgman, Sione Mafileo, Pauliasi Manu, Isaac Salmon, Mike Tamoaieta, Ofa Tuungafasi; Locks: Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Josh Goodhue, Scott Scrafton, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jimmy Tupou; Loose forwards: Blake Gibson, Akira Ioane, Jerome Kaino, Dalton Papalii, Glenn Preston, Kara Pryor, Murphy Taramai.
Halfbacks: Sam Nock, Augustine Puli, Jonathan Ruru; First Five: Daniel Kirkpatrick, Bryn Gatland, Stephen Perofeta, Otere Black; Midfield: Matt Johnson, George Moala, Rieko Ioane, Tamati Tua, TJ Faiane, Sonny Bill Williams; Outside backs: Caleb Clarke, Michael Collins, Matt Duffie, Melanie Nanai, Jordan Trainor.
Membership for the Blues is available from 11 December from $179 for eight home games, all at the spiritual home of New Zealand rugby at Eden Park. Details: www.theblues.co.nz/memberships