Blues coach Pat Lam has denied suggestions young first-five Gareth Anscombe is a scapegoat for the team's poor form.
Anscombe, who has started in the pivotal No10 position for the past four matches, and before that scored all of his team's 29 points in their only win of the season against the Bulls, has not even made the reserves' bench for Friday night's match against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
He has been replaced by Michael Hobbs, with Lachie Munro, seemingly out in the cold for the past few weeks, back on to the reserves' bench.
Loose forward Daniel Braid has been dropped to the bench in favour of Chris Lowrey but it's the axing of 20-year-old Anscombe, thought to have a bright future in the playmaking position, which has caused the biggest ripples.
"Everyone's accountable for the performances," Lam said of the decision to drop Anscombe. "While we're picking for the future it's also about the here and the now and picking the team that will get us the win.
"The 10 [position] is an important general. Like I said, this is an important learning experience. He's 20-years-old. Tyler Bleyendaal is going through the same at the Crusaders.
It's a big thing to come through and run the game. It's a constant learning and that's one of the areas he's working on and we're working with him."
Lam added that it was not an easy decision to make.
"The worst part of coaching is telling a player he's not involved whether they are first-year or [have played] 100 games and we go through that process all the time. It's about making sure we're true to what we believe is the best team.
"It's probably a win-win. Gareth will get better through this experience and I think for us as a team we'll have the right guys out there this week."
With the Blues rooted to the bottom of the Super Rugby table, players other than Anscombe were vulnerable to being dropped but the sad truth for Lam is that he has few alternatives in some positions.
The lineout was particularly poor in last weekend's loss to the Reds but Tom McCartney gets the nod at hooker again due to Keven Mealamu's failure to recover from a calf injury and the locking stocks are so low Ali Williams can virtually select himself.
Lam said McCartney was upset with his throwing performance at Eden Park but backed him to come right, while Williams has been a "key figure" this week.
"Tom was pretty distraught. He's got a lot of credit in the bank because he's been outstanding and it wasn't quite a good day for him with the lineout throwing. I know he was back out the next day working on it and I'm confident he'll show what he's really made of."
Benson Stanley returns to centre, with Rene Ranger moving to the right wing in place of Rudi Wulf who has failed to overcome a shoulder injury.
Tony Woodcock has been ruled out with a calf injury and replaced by Tevita Mailau. Captain Luke Braid shifts from blindside to openside flanker.
Asked about how he thought the Hurricanes, who have lost their last two matches, were playing, Lam said: "It's more about us. We lost to them in the last minute last time and for us it's about getting the win. They've exceeded expectations as everyone has said and we haven't. We haven't met expectations so it's one of those games where we'll be pretty hungry for the win and they will be too, on the back of those two losses."
Blues team to play Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday, kick-off 7.35pm: Hadleigh Parkes, Rene Ranger, Benson Stanley, Ma'a Nonu, George Moala, Michael Hobbs, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid (capt), Chris Lowrey, Ali Williams, Filo Paulo, Charlie Faumuina, Tom McCartney, Tevita Mailau. Reserves: James Parsons, Angus Ta'avao, Liaki Moli, Daniel Braid, Alby Mathewson, Lachie Munro, David Raikuna.
- APNZBy Patrick McKendry Email Patrick