Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan has made just one injury-enforced change to the starting XV for Friday’s clash with the Reds at Eden Park (kick-off 7.35pm).
Brendon O’Connor starts at openside flanker in the absence of skipper Luke Braid who took a blow to the shoulder in last week’s victory over the Waratahs.
“Luke’s been playing well for us and is totally committed but Brendon is an outstanding replacement for him,” Kirwan said.
“He’s a very good player in his own right so it’s a really good opportunity for him.”
Talismanic hooker Keven Mealamu will assume the captaincy duties in Braid’s absence.
Kirwan has made one positional change with Peter Saili switching to blindside flanker and Jerome Kaino moving to number eight as Kirwan looks for more control at the base of the scrum.
“Jerome can play both positions pretty well and together they bring a little bit of edge, they’re both physical and strong ball carriers. We did the same switch at half time last week and it frees Pete up to roam around a bit more.”
On the bench Ofa Tu’ungafasi replaces the injured Sam Prattley while outside back George Moala comes in for Pita Ahki.
The Blues are up against a smarting Reds outfit who have lost their last three games in a row and who will be eager to put in a strong performance for livewire first-five Quade Cooper who is expected to play his 100th game for Queensland on Friday.
The Reds boast an impressive record against the Blues having won their last four encounters, and Kirwan said he was expecting a fierce battle.
“They’ll be desperate so we can’t wait, we’ve just got to really hoe in and replicate the energy and effort that we put in last week,” Kirwan said.
“It’s a big night for us and we feel like we’re the underdogs but if we can get the same intensity we had last week it should put us in good stead.
“Last week was what we needed to do from an intensity and effort point of view and that now needs to be our minimum, we need to at least match that and make sure we step it up and add a little bit.
“I think we can improve in areas as well. All the games have been going right down to the wire so it’s going to be a tough match but I’m confident if we can bring that attitude then we’ll be in the hunt.”
The Blues team to face the Reds at Eden Park on Friday night (kick-off 7.35pm) is: