Piri Weepu headlines an exciting Blues 10s squad named today to compete in the inaugural World Club 10s tournament in Singapore this weekend.
The 71-Test veteran will captain a Blues squad boasting more than 300 combined Super Rugby caps coupled with plenty of youthful exuberance.
The Blues backline features Maori All Blacks midfielder Jackson Willison alongside plenty of raw pace and power in young outside backs Melani Nanai, Filipo Nakosi and Nick Smith.
Tom McCartney and Ofa Tu’ungafasi form a strong front row that will be well complemented by the dynamic loose forward trio of Jordan Manihera, Brendon O’Connor and Joe Edwards who have all represented New Zealand at Under-20 level.
The side will be coached by North Harbour ITM Cup coach Steve Jackson who said he was pleased with the make-up of the squad.
“There’s a really good mix, especially with Brendon O’Connor there and a bit of speed in the loose. I’m happy young Mitchell Hunt and Nick Smith get an opportunity as well as Melani Nanai who is pretty exciting and also Filipo Nakosi, the Fijian from Northland,” Jackson said.
“There’s plenty of speed out wide and mixing that with the experience of Piri, Jackson and Tom up front, it’s exciting and a great opportunity for these guys to have a taste of it and get stuck in.”
Jackson said Super Rugby centurion Weepu would be a vital asset captaining a young Blues 10s squad.
“When I heard Piri was going to be available and part of our team I was quite excited and to have him captain the side is great,” he said.
“Piri’s played a bit of sevens and he’s also played some touch football as well so he understands the way the faster form of 15s or a slower form of sevens is going to be played. So to have the ability and skill to play that sort of game is going to be crucial for this side.”
Jackson said the goal for the tournament was a simple one.
“The goal is to win,” he said. “We’re not going over there to make up the numbers. Obviously we’ll take in the atmosphere and culture in Singapore but we’re there for one reason and that is to win the tournament.”
The Blues face a challenging start to day one of the tournament on Saturday against French side Biarritz Olympique followed by a match against the Samoa Water Presidents. They then round out pool play by facing London Welsh.
The other pool features The Brumbies, Petraca Rugby from Italy, the Cardiff Blues and the Asia Pacific Dragons.
The team departs for Singapore tomorrow morning.
The Blues 10s squad is:
Piri Weepu (C)