Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Kirwan shakes up Blues for Bulls game

Coach John Kirwan has ignored convention and shaken up his Blues group who have taken the franchise to initial victories against the Hurricanes and Crusaders.

Five players will make their first start for the Blues as the competition surprises prepare to host the Bulls at Eden Park on Sunday.

Lock Liaki Moli also comes in for his first start this year as he partners captain Ali Williams in a heavily rejigged pack.

New faces Tim Perry and Quentin MacDonald are picked in the front row with another, Kane Barrett, being used on the blindside which means Steven Luatua switching to take over the No 8 role.

The backline alterations have Baden Kerr picked as five eighths to run the backline after several promising offerings from Chris Noakes while Waisake Naholo comes onto the left wing.

First appearances for the Blues also loom for Ronald Raaymakers, Jamison Gibson-Park, Marty McKenzie and Albert Nikoro who have been named in the reserves.

The Blues have rattled the New Zealand conference with wins against the Hurricanes and Crusaders to start this Super 15 campaign.

Those results have not curbed Kirwan's capacity to experiment with the new talent in his squad.

He wants to create strong competition for places and look after his players and even though the Blues have a bye next round, he reasons this is the time for adjustments.

It is an intriguing concept which should take the attention on the Blues to another level on Sunday.

Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, Waisake Naholo, Baden Kerr, Piri Weepu, Steve Luatua, Luke Braid, Kane Barrett, Liaki Moli, Ali Williams ©, Charlie Faumuina, Quentin MacDonald, Tim Perry. Reserves: James Parsons, Angus Ta'avao, Ronald Raaymakers, Brendon O'Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Marty McKenzie, Albert Nikoro.

- NZ Herald

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