The Blues are excited to return home to Eden Park to host defending champions Crusaders in the traditional barn-burning Investec Super Rugby clash on Friday night.
The two teams have a traditional rivalry like no other, including the 24-22 thriller decided after fulltime at Eden Park last year.
“When the Super Rugby schedule comes out you always look first for the Crusaders game. They are the benchmark. It is the game where the hairs on the back of your neck bristle and this one will be no different,” said Blues head coach Leon MacDonald.
“I know the boys are excited about this one. We know they will bring their best game to Eden Park – they always do – and especially so after a loss. And we will bring the best we have. I am sure it will be an amazing game.”
The Blues will have all their key All Blacks back on starting duties led by captain Patrick Tuipulotu and Ofa Tuungafasi who along with James Parsons will make their first starts this season, completing a formidable front row with the in-form Karl Tu’inukuafe.
The back row remains intact from the win over the Waratahs with All Black flanker Dalton Papalii joining Blake Gibson and Hoskins Sotutu, who both produced eye-catching displays in Newcastle.
The backline remains unchanged with the likes of Stephen Perofeta nearing his blazer game and dual international Matt Duffie closing in on his 50th for the Blues.
Players not considered because of injury include: Finlay Christie (neck), Gerard Cowley-Tuioti (shoulder), Jared Page (hamstring), Tanielu Tele’a (shoulder), James Tucker (knee), Alex Hodgman (calf), Ray Niuia (knee), Rieko Ioane (hand).
The team is:
- Karl Tu’inukuafe, 2. James Parsons, 3. Ofa Tuungafasi, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu ©, 5. Josh Goodhue, 6. Dalton Papalii, 7. Blake Gibson, 8. Hoskins Sotutu; 9. Jonathan Ruru, 10. Stephen Perofeta, 11. Mark Telea, 12. TJ Faiane, 13. Joe Marchant, 14. Jordan Hyland, 15. Matt Duffie.
16. Kurt Eklund, 17. Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18. Sione Mafileo, 19. Tom Robinson, 20. Tony Lamborn; 21. Sam Nock, 22. Harry Plummer, 23. Emoni Narawa.