Keven Mealamu will make his first appearance of the year for the Blues when they take on the Highlanders in their final pre-season match at Unitec on Friday afternoon (kick-off 2.00pm)
The Blues captain is the last All Black to return to action (other than Ma’a Nonu and Tony Woodcock who are currently away from the team) and he will be joined by a number of his World Cup winning All Black teammates as Pat Lam rolls out a strong side for the final warm-up match.
Jerome Kaino, the world’s best blindside flanker, will once again start at number 8 as 2011 Blues player of the year Luke Braid makes his first appearance after overcoming shoulder surgery in the off-season.
He will be joined by older brother Daniel on the openside flank.
Hooker Tom McCartney will get to show his versatility as he starts at loosehead prop, while Michael Hobbs has been handed the number 10 jersey to take on his former team.
In one of the most hotly contested positions in the Blues this season, Hobbs looks to have the front running to secure the first five duties for the season-opener against the Crusaders, with Piri Weepu nursing an ankle injury while Gareth Anscombe is still adjusting to his first year of Super Rugby.
Fullback Rudi Wulf will be hoping to continue the fine early season form which has seen him score three tries in the opening two matches, while Rene Ranger partners Benson Stanley in the midfield.
The Blues team to face the Highlanders at Unitec on Friday is:
1. Tom McCartney
2. Keven Mealamu
3. Charlie Faumuina
4. Anthony Boric
5. Ali Williams
6. Luke Braid
7. Daniel Braid
8. Jerome Kaino
9. Alby Mathewson
10. Michael Hobbs
11. Lachie Munro
12. Benson Stanley
13. Rene Ranger
14. David Raikuna
15. Rudi Wulf
Most of the remaining squad will be on the reserves bench
Unavailable – George Moala (shoulder) Sherwin Stowers (ankle)