After putting the finishing touches on their main training session for the week ahead of their season opener against the Highlanders, the Blues today received possession of team T-shirts inspired by television's
, a brutally violent series about a California motorcycle club.
In a neat twist, the Blues' shirts are titled Sons of 09, with a helmeted figure on the back along with a stylised version of Auckland's sky-line, including the Sky Tower.
The black short-sleeved shirt suggest a joining of a club, gang, or brotherhood, and long-suffering Blues fans will hope this one approaches the ruthlessness of the fictional Sons.
In the series the gang's president is continually having to make difficult decisions and, ahead of his first Super Rugby assignment as a head coach, Tana Umaga has already had to make some of his own for his team's clash at Eden Park on Friday against the defending champion Highlanders.
Two All Blacks and a New Zealand Sevens star on the reserves bench have immediately caught the eye, with Umaga saying prop Charlie Faumuina and Rene Ranger weren't quite up to full fitness due to recent injuries, a state which probably also applies to Akira Ioane, who missed last week's pre-season match due to a hamstring niggle.
Umaga said Faumuina had returned from the World Cup with a hamstring issue himself, although he was in outstanding form against the Chiefs last Friday.
The Blues coach said of Ranger, who is returning from neck surgery: "With Rene coming back from a long injury, he's still finding his feet a little bit and getting his game sense back so we thought it best he came off the bench. He's a pretty exciting person to come off the bench too.
"I have a philosophy that the bench have to come on and hopefully make things happen ... whether we're behind or in front. We need to keep the pressure on and the momentum going forward and if we haven't got momentum then they've got to shift it."
The Harley Davidsons will have to be finely tuned and working in unison on the highway if the Blues are to tip over their southern rivals, with Umaga suggesting the time for talking is nearly over.
He said: "The defending champions epitomise effort and worth ethic and a good culture and working for each other. That's what every team wants. We've talked a lot about it and we'll see how it goes."
The Blues team is:
Lolagi Visinia, Melani Nanai, Male Sa'u, George Moala, Tevita Li, Ihaia West, Bryn Hall, Steven Luatua, Blake Gibson, Joe Edwards, Josh Bekhuis, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sione Mafileo, James Parsons (c), Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Namatahi Waa, Charlie Faumuina, Akira Ioane, Kara Pryor, Billy Guyton, Matt McGahan, Rene Ranger.