New caps in Blues team to play Reds

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 15:51 31/01/2013

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John Kirwan hasn't wasted anytime.

The new Blues coach will quickly learn if his fresh-faced young guns are up to the challenge, after naming 18 new caps for his side's first preseason match against the Reds in Toowoomba on Saturday.

While preseason results count for little, the debutants will be tested with the Reds boasting 11 Wallabies.

"They are all ready to go. They have been training hard and it's time to play," Kirwan said.

"It's a real opportunity for guys to express themselves."

While a trim Piri Weepu was at training in West Auckland today, the halfback and other All Blacks, prop Charlie Faumuina and captain Ali Williams, won't feature in the first trial.

Keven Mealamu has been granted extended leave, meaning he will miss the first three regular-season Blues' games.

Anthony Boric, Rene Ranger, Charles Piutau, who was injured during training, Culum Retallick and George Moala have also been rested.

Ranger will turn out in Whangarei, his hometown, against the Waratahs next week.

"We've left some of the more experienced guys at home," Kirwan said.

"We know what they can do. It's a chance for the young boys to have a go."

The Blues, who will be led by Luke Braid and carry 27 players, have received reassurances the Queensland floods have cleared in Toowoomba and the game will go ahead as scheduled.

BLUES:

Marty McKenzie, Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Jackson Willison, Frank Halai, Baden Kerr, Bryn Hall, Peter Saili, Luke Braid (c), Kane Barrett, Ronald Raymakers, Liaki Moli, Angus Ta'avao, James Parsons, Tom McCartney

Reserves:
Albert Nikoro, Lolagi Visinia, Pita Ahki, Francis Saili, Jamison Gibson-Park, Joe Edwards, Sean Polwart, Brendon O'Connor, Steven Luatua, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Tim Perry, Quentin MacDonald 

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