Blues coach Sir John Kirwan has acknowledged that Simon Hickey is his best first-five in selecting the 20-year-old to run the backline against the Cheetahs at Eden Park on Saturday.

Hickey, a wider training group player, replaces Chris Noakes at No10, with Benji Marshall, who played 80 minutes at fullback against the Lions, back on the reserves bench. Charles Piutau, used on the left wing at Ellis Park, is back in the No15 jersey.

"I thought he came on last week and really showed some spark,'' Kirwan said of Hickey. "I'm going to pick on form and he's on form at the moment so he's getting a start.''

"Just a little bit of positional stuff,'' was Kirwan's explanation as to why Marshall had lost his starting spot. "I thought for him on attack he was outstanding, he just needs to keep learning that positional play and back at fullback that's not easy to do but he'll pick it up.''


As expected Ma'a Nonu and Jerome Kaino have been selected on the reserves bench, which also includes lock Hayden Triggs for the first time.

While Kirwan wants his side to start with more intent this week after underwhelming starts in their four previous matches, the bench has the potential to add real impact.

"Our bench has been pretty good coming on so far, but I was looking at it today and it's a pretty special bench. With Ma'a and Jerome in there it certainly gives us confidence to use it.''

Blues team to play the Cheetahs at Eden Park on Saturday, kick-off 7.35pm is: 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.