Blues coach Pat Lam has named Michael Hobbs to start at first-five ahead of Piri Weepu for their opening encounter of the Super Rugby season against the Crusaders at Eden Park on Friday night.
Hobbs' form in the pre-season won him the nod ahead of Weepu after the World Cup-winner had been sluggish with his fitness.
"Michael Hobbs impressed in the last game and throughout the pre-season. He's in great nick so he will start at 10,'' Lam said. "There was really good competition for the number 10 jersey and Piri showed his class but we feel at this stage as he is just returning to rugby, it is best to bring him off the bench.''
Captained by Keven Mealamu, the Blues welcome back winger Rudi Wulf after a stint in Toulon and he is joined by North Harbour speedster David Raikuna who will make his debut this on the right wing.
"In the highly competitive outside backs, David Raikuna has put his hand up. He had a very good game against the Highlanders so he's earned his spot on the right wing. With Sherwin Stowers getting injured in the Rebels game it has given David the chance to start and take the opportunity in a big game,'' Lam said.
1. Tom McCartney, 2. Keven Mealamu (captain), 3 Charlie Faumuina, 4. Anthony Boric, 5. Ali Williams, 6. Chris Lowrey, 7. Daniel Braid, 8. Jerome Kaino, 9. Alby Mathewson, 10. Michael Hobbs, 11. Rudi Wulf, 12. Benson Stanley, 13. Rene Ranger, 14. David Raikuna, 15. Isaia Toeava. Reserves: 16. Pauliasi Manu, 17. Tevita Mailau, 18. Brad Mika 19. Luke Braid, 20. Piri Weepu, 21. Hadleigh Parkes, 22. Sherwin Stowers
Crusaders: 1 Wyatt Crockett, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 3 Ben Franks, 4 Tom Donnelly, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 6 George Whitelock, 7 Matt Todd, 8 Kieran Read (c), 9 Andy Ellis, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 11 Israel Dagg, 12 Ryan Crotty, 13 Robbie Fruean, 14 Sean Maitland, 15 Tom Marshall. Reserves: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Patrick Osborne, 22 Adam Whitelock.
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