For a decade Carlos Spencer was the main man in the No 10 jersey for the Blues.

Others came in when he was injured, needed time out or had an occupational switch to fullback.

Since Spencer's exit at the end of 2005 after 96 games in the jersey, the Blues have been unable to settle long-term on a senior replacement to guide their campaigns.

Scan the records and eight players have been used at five-eighths since then with three more - Piri Weepu, Michael Hobbs and Gareth Anscombe - in line for duty this season.


Rugby boffins will recall the bulk of those who have started games for the Blues at five-eighths, rather than those like Daniel Kirkpatrick or Lachie Munro who came on as subs, but there might be a couple of names that raise eyebrows.

Lee Stensness, Tony Monaghan, Orene Ai'i, James Arlidge, Tasesa Lavea, Luke McAlister, Isa Nacewa, David Holwell, Nick Evans, Isaia Toeava, Jimmy Gopperth and Stephen Brett fill out the list around Spencer and this year's trio.

Spencer and Brett are the only men on the list who started every campaign match in a single season, in 1998 and 2010 seasons. Spencer, Stensness and Ai'i were the only five-eighths to figure in title-winning campaigns in 1996, 97 and 2003.

Ah, those were the days. Since then eight seasons without success and many questions about the ninth year.

Those who cast a quizzical rather than cheerleading eye at the Blues five-eighths this year may still carry that look.

Hobbs gets another run today in the side's final practice match against the Highlanders. He's got some pedigree and some unknowns. He's had spells with the Blues and Highlanders before major back surgery took him away from the sport for some time.

Hobbs wants to play first five-eighths, though he can fill in elsewhere. His preference is for the No 10 role and right now he is in line to do the same for the Blues on opening night against the Crusaders.

"I'm not sure what's going to happen but this is a chance to have another crack," he said. "It can be difficult to switch as midfield is more trucking the ball up and doing certain things, but 10 is a different role running the ship and navigating the team around. You need time there to be more comfortable, you want it to be second nature.


"Everyone has a preference and mine is to play 10. When I look at the makeup of this team, I think it will suit me a little bit better."

There would be some job-sharing and that showed in positional switches during pre-season matches. Injury and form could also play a part.

Anscombe has graduated from the Blues' wider training group last season and showed his character and skill when New Zealand won the Junior World Championships and then in the ITM Cup. He is a strong goalkicker, has stacks of speed and is growing into work at the command post.

"It is another step up from where I have been. I got a taste of it last year and saw the culture and what it takes to cut it here," he said.

"I am trying to push my case pre-season and be there to stake a claim and learn as much as I can from guys like Piri but I also want to play some rugby. I don't want to sit in the reserves all the time, but it is a long season so we'll see where it takes us.

"Time here is all about adding to my game and being ready when I get a chance," he said. "My role, if I get on, is to help our backline which is pretty exciting, help to set them alight, pick the right plays and times to do things."

Anscombe slotted in behind a strong forward pack with Auckland but the Blues will want to embrace a more expansive approach with their No 8, halfback and five-eighths.

The 20-year-old has added some kilos to his frame and kept his speed so he thinks he will be better prepared for the rugged demands of the Super 15.

New squad signing Piri Weepu is not quite so ready, an ankle complaint has interrupted his return to the field. He had time in Melbourne but did not feel ready for another hitout against the Highlanders today.

"That run felt all right and I was hoping to get a bit longer," he said. "It wasn't too bad after such a long time off, I was expecting to be bending over and caught out wide, but it was all right."

Summer was spent with his family, playing some touch and relaxing in the afterglow of the World Cup triumph.

Now he wants to spend time in the No 10 jersey for the Blues although he does not know if that will eventuate.

"But I would like to run a team from that position rather than slotting in now and again as I have. But there will have to be job-sharing over the length of this campaign."

Weepu did not feel his five-eighths aspirations would impact on his All Black hopes, where he is more likely to wear the No 9. He feels he's played enough for that team for the coaches to judge his contributions.

He was now thinking longer-term, broadening his positional portfolio to appeal to prospective future employers.

"Now it is all about getting out there doing my job and seeing where it takes me," he said.