Late last year there was some strong mail Matt Todd would travel as the understudy to his provincial skipper Richie McCaw on the All Black tour.
Instead the deputy flanker vacancy was filled by Daniel Braid but those wanting another comparison between the candidates will get a taste tomorrow when the Blues host the Crusaders at Eden Park.
The 22-year-old Todd has been picked for his Super Rugby debut pushing former All Black George Whitelock on to the blindside duties, while Braid is back with the Blues after a two-year tour of duty with the Reds.
The duel between the No 7s will be one of many features in a series start which is expected to draw in excess of 25,000 by the time referee Chris Pollock blows game on tomorrow.
The Blues are stacked with internationals, only centre Jared Payne, five-eighths Stephen Brett and No 8 Chris Lowrey have yet to play for the All Blacks while the Crusaders arrive with 10 in their starting lineup who have been All Blacks.
Former All Black lock Ali Williams returns to duty with the Blues after several seasons wrecked by Achilles tendon injuries and will get an immediate gauge on his preparedness for this level of rugby when he lines up against his international successor Sam Whitelock and the evergreen Brad Thorn.
"He's ready otherwise we wouldn't have put him there," Blues coach Pat Lam said of Williams' return.
"He is keen to get involved. We know the expectation is he won't be at his best like a lot of other guys but to have him out there I believe he will do a good job for us.
"There will be a few nerves for him after two years out but he is excited. He has had two hitouts and got a bit of confidence there."
The Blues expected Williams and the rest of the side to perform strongly because if teams wanted to beat the benchmark Crusaders side, they had to be extremely unified.
Lam has decided to use Isaia Toeava, in his 50th game for the Blues, at fullback, with Payne settling into the centre's role in his franchise debut while Lowrey has claimed the No 8 vacancy in his return to the top level.
"It all looks good on paper but as everyone knows we have got to perform as a team," Lam said.
"It is a big game for our team and our franchise. There's a lot of spice, first game in a new stadium and it looks like a good crowd will come out."
Sidelined Crusaders' skipper McCaw had successful surgery on his foot on Tuesday and is expected to make his playing return in about six weeks. In his absence, test No 8 Kieran Read will captain the Crusaders.
Lam has a full squad except for halfback Chris Smylie and five eighths Luke McAlister to choose from while the Crusaders have lost eight men to injury. Joining McCaw in the casualty ward are Sonny Bill Williams, Joe Wheeler, Quentin MacDonald, Zac Guildford, Ryan Crotty, Kahn Fotuali'i and David Hall.
Fullback Israel Dagg will make his debut for the Crusaders alongside Todd, after recovering from a thigh injury he suffered in a trial game. Several reserves are also in line to make their first appearance for the visitors.
"It's an exciting time and we're entering the unknown a little bit with the new format of the competition, but we are looking for a good performance against the Blues," coach Todd Blackadder said of his Crusaders.
Blackadder won three Super Rugby titles as captain of the Crusaders.
"These derby matches are very important with the new conference system and I hear there will be a big crowd at Eden Park so the atmosphere should be superb.
Isaia Toeava, Joe Rokocoko, Jared Payne, Benson Stanley, Rene Ranger, Stephen Brett, Alby Mathewson, Chris Lowrey, Daniel Braid, Jerome Kaino, Ali Williams, Anthony Boric, John Afoa, K. Mealamu (c), Tony Woodcock
Tom McCartney/Ash Dixon, Charlie Faumuina, Filo Paulo, Luke Braid, Toby Morland, Lachie Munro, Sherwin Stowers
Israel Dagg, Sean Maitland, Robbie Fruean, Adam Whitelock, T. U-Marshall, Daniel Carter, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (c), Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett
Francis Smith, Ben Franks, Chris Jack, Jonathan Poff, Willi Heinz, Matt Berquist, Tom Marshall/ Tyler Bleyendaal
Eden Park, tomorrow, 7.35pmBy Wynne Gray Email Wynne