Each week there is a surprise Blues selection, something a bit left-field in the Super 15 franchise.
The latest revelation took the season award when coach Pat Lam announced that Hadleigh Parkes would be the Blues' fullback for tomorrow's clash with the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Parkes was part of the squad's wider training group at the beginning of the season but has made two appearances from the bench and one start on the wing because of injuries in the squad. Inquiries about any previous fullback experience for Parkes, at least in senior levels of the game, drew a blank.
However, he has been named in that role while 23-year-old Luke Braid will captain the side for the first time in the absence of the injured Keven Mealamu and with older brother and alternate skipper Daniel on the bench.
The Blues' first-choice fullback Isaia Toeava is out for the series with a hip injury while his replacement Rudi Wulf has pinched a nerve in his shoulder and will miss this round at the new Dunedin stadium.
Lachie Munro could have been asked to pitch up again after three matches as fullback this season or one of the utility players with kicking skills like Michael Hobbs, Gareth Anscombe and Piri Weepu might have been an option.
Instead Lam and his selectors have picked Parkes, the sturdy 24-year-old who built most of his rugby reputation in the midfield for Manawatu. He had impressed the coaching staff with his 100 per cent efforts and his unrelenting determination.
He was very fit, he had the biggest punt in the team and had earned his selection with his consistent work in every area for the Blues.
"When we looked at the back three and what we want out of it - myself, Bryce Woodward and Jeff Wilson - he fits that bill for this game and we really were very limited losing Ice and Rudi," Lam said.
"The reward far outweighs the risk. I am really confident and us as coaches are, that Parkes has the right mental toughness and skillset to really do a good job there. We are at that stage when we have so many injuries, particularly out there, that you've got to take some risk."
Luke Braid had shown his leadership since he joined the Blues and had won the players' player of the year award last season after a string of consistent quality performances.
Lam consulted senior All Blacks Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and Ali Williams who endorsed Braid's captaincy promotion.
The coach had also recalled Williams to the starting XV and was confident the All Black lock would respond with a strong performance against what would be a gritty Highlanders pack.
"The acid is on Ali and he knows that," said Lam.
In other moves rookie George Moala is picked on the right wing, Benson Stanley has been shifted from midfield to the left flank, Peter Saili comes into No 8 and Tom McCartney starts at hooker instead of his injured skipper.
The Alby Mathewson-Gareth Anscombe combination stayed at halfback and five-eighths and while Piri Weepu's conditioning was improving, Lam did not want to disrupt the current axis until Weepu created more pressure.
The Blues would need to be a solid unit, they were facing a huge physical challenge and if they played as individuals they would be blown away, Lam said.By Wynne Gray Email Wynne