Blues coach Tana Umaga has given Piers Francis his first Super Rugby start as he continues his search for his best midfield combination.

Francis will start in the No12 jersey against the Jaguares at QBE North Harbour Stadium on Saturday in the Blues' first match since their disappointing draw against the Reds in Brisbane.

Once again the Blues had opportunities to win the match but failed to do so. In particular they failed to capitalise on their many breaks and Umaga hopes the communication and distribution skills of 25-year-old Francis will help here.

George Moala is the casualty, but will provide an impact for the bench, with Rene Ranger starting at centre alongside Francis.


English-born Francis played for Saracens for four years before moving to Auckland and then to Waikato and the Chiefs wider training group before returning to the UK to play for Edinburgh and Doncaster. He returned last year to play for Counties Manukau.

Hooker James Parsons assumes the captaincy in the absence of the injured Jerome Kaino, with North Harbour prop Nic Mayhew given his first start to bolster a scrum that will be tested against the Jaguares.

Joe Edwards starts in the place of Kaino on the side of the scrum, with Akira Ioane to provide impact off the bench.

The Blues are searching for their first win in Albany since 2013.

Blues team to play the Jaguares at QBE North Harbour Stadium on Saturday:

Lolagi Visinia, Rieko Ioane, Rene Ranger, Piers Francis, Tevita Li, Ihaia West, Bryn Hall, Steven Luatua, Blake Gibson, Joe Edwards, Josh Bekhuis, Patrick Tuipulotu, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons (c), Nic Mayher. Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Sam Prattley, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Hoani Matenga, Akira Ioane, Billy Guyton, Matt McGahan, George Moala.