Sir John Kirwan has made good on the pledge to select his best line-up, dropping Benji Marshall to the bench and reinstating Simon Hickey at first five-eighth for tomorrow's clash with the Cheetahs at Eden Park.
Despite a solid showing in his first start at fullback last week, Marshall has made way for All Blacks utility Charles Piutau, who switches from the left wing to his preferred role at the back.
Piutau has been the Blues' most potent player this year. Kirwan is clearly keen to utilise his abilities, rather than see fleeting moments of attacking brilliance. Tevita Li has made a swift recovery from a hand injury to take his place on the left wing.
It also appears Kirwan has, finally, settled on Hickey at 10.
The rookie's recall is the fourth change at pivot in five matches and hopefully spells an end to the trial-like process the Blues had adopted thus far. Hickey's promotion sees Chris Noakes left out of the squad.
No 8 Peter Saili returns to the back of the scrum and a leg injury to lock Patrick Tuipulotu paves the way for Hayden Triggs to make his debut for a fourth New Zealand Super Rugby team, off the pine.
Kirwan has resisted the urge to give halfback Bryn Hall a start ahead of Piri Weepu. Hall's cameo off the bench in Johannesburg last week was a major factor in the Blues' near-miraculous comeback.
As expected, star recruits Jerome Kaino and Ma'a Nonu will play their first match of the year from the bench.
BLUES: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, George Moala, Jackson Willison, Tevita Li, Simon Hickey, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid (c), Steven Luatua, Tom Donnelly, Liaki Moli, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Tom McCartney, Angus Ta'avao, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Jerome Kaino, Hayden Triggs, Bryn Hall, Ma'a Nonu, Benji Marshall
- Fairfax Media
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