The Blues, whether they deliver on it or not, can at least be certain that they are heading into this weekend with extraordinary promise in their midfield.

Head coach Tana Umaga has gone with what many would see as an irresistible combination of Sonny Bill Williams and Rieko Ioane.

Irresistible because it's a combination with screamingly obvious physical attributes. The size and athleticism of both men is their main attraction, yet they offer more than just power.

Williams is one of the most creative passers in world rugby and even in his near 30 minutes in Dunedin last week, he showed his capacity to break the line and play others into space.


His one significant linebreak was the highlight of an individual performance that was patchy in terms of skill execution and accuracy but it was dynamic and high energy, suggesting that he's suffering no effects from his prolonged lay off due to his Achilles injury.

However mixed his offering, it was enough to prove to Umaga that he was ready to start against the Hurricanes.

Umaga was also clear that the prolonged publicity in regard to Williams' conscientious objection has been an issue only for those outside the Blues. Inside the camp, the issue has barely registered given that Williams has previously been excused from certain promotions.

"As a team we knew it would be sorted," said Umaga. "We haven't really dwelt on it but obviously everyone else has. We are happy, Sonny is happy.

"He [Williams] tried to do a lot as you would after eight months off. There was a lot of energy and he was happy with it and we were happy with it. His body held up.

"He ticked off a few things that we wanted him to. Sonny is being around for a long time in this industry and you wouldn't know anything was happening. It has probably been a good lesson for some people too that for all the talk externally that goes on outside of here [Blues squad] it doesn't mean much to us in terms of what we need to do."

The big hope for Umaga is that the Williams-Ioane combination lives up to its potential and gives the Blues an obvious focal point through which to funnel their attacking play.

The Blues are also hoping that the arrival of Williams may be the catalyst to bring Ioane's game back to the boil after a few quiet weeks where he's not been greatly involved.

"It is the first time they have played together," says Umaga. "Training is all good but under pressure we will see how it goes. It [the combination] has got its possibilities, it is exciting but we have to see how it goes.

"We have quality midfielders and TJ Faiane is in that mix as well and it is not as if he did anything wrong. We have got three All Blacks in that area and we have to fit these guys in.

"With George, it wasn't his best game on the weekend and performance is what we judge on and if you are not performing we have got someone that can step in."