All Blacks lock Ali Williams finally gets the chance to run out as Blues captain for the first time in Saturday's Super Rugby preseason clash with the Waratahs in Whangarei.
Williams was named Blues skipper late last year by new coach Sir John Kirwan but was rested for their opening trial against the Reds last weekend.
Kirwan has selected a stronger lineup for the clash with New South Wales and Williams is motivated to keep the rebuild of the Blues going on the right track.
"I've had a pretty good pre-season with a lot of hard work and it's great to eventually get out onto the paddock," the 77-test veteran said.
"I'm really excited. One thing I'm probably most excited about is being out in the pressure cooker with all these boys that have done the hard work together so it's going to be good.
"This is going to be the first real test. You can only really judge a captain by what happens on the field. First and foremost it's how they play and secondly it's how the team comes off.
"There are a few things for me to concentrate on but at the moment I'm loving it and having a great bunch of guys around me makes it easy."
Rene Ranger gets a start at centre on his home soil and Bay of Plenty's Chris Noakes starts at first five-eighths.
Wing George Moala will play his first game since fracturing his fibula during the NPC.
All Black prop Charlie Faumuina will get some game time off the bench, while lock Culum Retallick will also come off the pine to play his first game in five months since suffering a mid foot joint sprain.
BLUES: Albert Nikoro, George Moala, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, Lolagi Visinia, Chris Noakes, Bryn Hall, Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams (captain), Liaki Moli, Angus Ta'avao, Quentin MacDonald, Tom McCartney. Reserves: James Parsons, Tim Perry, Culum Retallick, Brendon O'Connor, Charlie Faumuina, Ronald Raaymakers, Kane Barrett, Jamison Gibson-Park, Malakai Fekitoa, Marty McKenzie, Baden Kerr, Waisake Naholo, Frank Halai.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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