Bryn Gatland will start the 2018 season wearing the Blues number 10 jersey when the side open their season against the Highlanders on Friday.

He gets a head start ahead of an injured Stephen Perofeta as the two battle it out for the starting five-five position. Gatland will be making his fifth appearance for the Blues while Perofeta played two games last season.

Daniel Kirkpatrick, with six previous matches for the Blues, is on the bench tomorrow.

The No 10 Blues jersey seems to have been a poisoned chalice since the retirement of Carlos Spencer. Spencer was part of three title-winning sides and played 96 games from 1996 to 2005, scoring 608 points.

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29 different players have played at first-five since the 1996 season, 23 of those have come since Spencer retired 12 years ago.

Here's a look at all the past players to play at first-five for the Auckland franchise with judgement calls made by Herald writer Chris Rattue on their respective tenures at the Blues.

Piers Francis
2016-17
24 games
120 points

Francis was named in the Blues squad in 2016 after impressing coach Tana Umaga while playing for Counties Manukau the previous season. He signed a deal with the Northampton Saints at the start of last season.

The Herald's Gregor Paul said this about Francis when his departure was announced: "The cold, hard truth of the matter is that with the deepest respect to Francis, he's not up to the job of being the Blues' chief playmaker. Whether Northampton had come knocking for him or not, the Blues were going to be actively searching for a seasoned No10 to guide them through next year. Francis is a plucky battler who has the sort of bravery and determination that marks him as a player worthy of respect and admiration. He's a good communicator and he's not a bad goal kicker. And if the Blues were set up the way Umaga would like, Francis would be a good option in the background to slip in at No10 or 12 when injuries struck or front liners needed a break."

Rattue: Good head. Limited gifts.

Dan Bowden

2015-16
6 games
43 points

Bowden made a name for himself as a solid but not spectacular first-five for the Highlanders in 2008 and 2009. He also played a handful of games for the Crusaders in 2010. After playing four seasons in the UK and Japan Bowden returned to Auckland where he played NPC in 2009. It didn't really work out. He was released from his contract early so he could sign with English side Bath.

Rattue: Well travelled. What do you expect?

Blues 1st5 Dan Bowden looks to step Brumbies flanker Scott Fardy. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Blues 1st5 Dan Bowden looks to step Brumbies flanker Scott Fardy. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Ihaia West
2014-17
45 games
347 points

In terms of points scored ranks number three on this list but West never really seemed to lock down the number 10 jersey at the Blues. His highlight in the Blues jersey will be the match-winning try against the British and Irish Lions.

Rattue: He's got something. In the right environment who knows?

Blues 1st-five Ihaia West dives over to score against the Lions. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Blues 1st-five Ihaia West dives over to score against the Lions. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Simon Hickey
2014-15
16 games
124 points

Like West, Hickey is five-foot-nine which at a smaller size help when the Blues forwards were pushed around. A reliable boot. In 2015 he joined fellow first-five Bowden by heading overseas. Hickey signed with French side Bordeaux where he continues to play.

Rattue: A bit pedestrian but not without skill.

Benji Marshall
2014
6 games
10 points

It was a gamble to sign the Kiwis league great and it clearly didn't come off. He did score one try and it was a pretty special effort but unfortunately Marshall's rugby career will go down as one of the poorest attempts at switching codes.

Rattue: Blues grandiosity at its worst.

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan (left) and Benji Marshall at a press conference to announce New Zealand Rugby and the Blues release of Marshall. Photo / Richard Robinson
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan (left) and Benji Marshall at a press conference to announce New Zealand Rugby and the Blues release of Marshall. Photo / Richard Robinson

Chris Noakes
2013-14
15 games
96 points

Following a season with the Highlanders in 2012 the Otago and Bay of Plenty 10 joined the Blues for the 2013 season. He became a regular starter during the 6-10 season playing in 12 games before suffering a prolapsed disc in his neck. The following season he signed with the London Irish.

Rattue: Was never going to last.

Baden Kerr

2013
13 games
52 points

Kerr earned his Blues debut following two strong seasons for Counties in the ITM Cup and battled with Noakes for the first-five spot. Like Noakes he also suffered an injury and sat out the 2014 season before signing with Bedford in England.

Rattue: I can't even picture him in my head.

Marty McKenzie
2013
3 games

Came off the bench in his three appearances during his only season with the Blues. Was at the Chiefs in 2015 before moving to the Crusaders for the last two seasons. Back with the Chiefs again in 2018.

Rattue: A bigger loss if it was Damian.

Blues player Marty McKenzie at Super Rugby training. photo / Richard Robinson
Blues player Marty McKenzie at Super Rugby training. photo / Richard Robinson

Gareth Anscombe

2012
10 games
102 points

Not good enough for the Blues but good enough to be a Welsh international. Anscombe has now played 13 tests for Wales since leaving the Blues in 2012. After playing 41 games for Auckland he made just 10 appearances for the Blues before joining the Chiefs in 2013 and 2014. Since then he's cracked 50 games for the Cardiff Blues.

Rattue: Got shafted. It's a bit of a mystery as to what went on with him at the Blues.

Piri Weepu
2012-14
40 games
58 points

Weepu played most of his 40 matches for the Blues at halfback after joining the franchise alongside Hurricanes teammate Ma'a Nonu in 2012. He did start in the 10 jersey in a match his first season - the Blues' 25-26 defeat to his former side in round five.

Rattue: Halfback.

Stephen Brett
2010-11
31 games
191 points

Brett joined the Blues after playing second fiddle to Dan Carter for three seasons at the Crusaders. He amassed almost 200 points for the Blues over two seasons before heading to Japan and France.

Rattue: Poor man's Dan Carter.

Michael Hobbs
2009, 2012
24 games
32 points

Hobbs played his first season for the Blues in 2009 before heading south to the Highlanders for the 2010 season. He struggled for consistent game time in Dunedin and returned to Auckland for the 2012 season where he started the season opener against the Crusaders. He played 14 games but lost the starting spot to Anscombe in round three. It was a year to forget with the Blues, with the side winning just four games.

Rattue: Lost in time.

Jimmy Gopperth
2009
11 games
104 points

One of many on this list who produced their best while playing for another New Zealand franchise. Gopperth was a regular starter for the Hurricanes from 2005 to 2008 before joining the Blues for the 2009 season. He earned the starting spot near the backend of the season in which nine points shy of the playoffs.

Rattue: Really?

Blues Jimmy Gopperth drops the ball in the tackle of Crusaders Richie McCaw. Photo / NZPA
Blues Jimmy Gopperth drops the ball in the tackle of Crusaders Richie McCaw. Photo / NZPA

Lachie Munro
2009-12
27 games
137

Munro had one of the stranger introductions to Super Rugby. He got a late call up to face the Sharks in a 2009 game, so late that he was at the races and had already drunk a beer before arriving 20 minutes into the game. A utility back who provided a bench option. After leaving the Blues he played in France.

Rattue: Can't believe he played so many games.

Nick Evans
2008
12 games
150 points

Evans joined the Blues for the 2008 season following four seasons with the Highlanders. He became a reliable starter in a season in which the Blues finished sixth, just a point out of the playoffs as Evans recorded the second most points in the competition behind Stephen Donald. He joined Harlequins the following season where he became a club great playing for 11 seasons before retiring last year to become the team's attack coach.

Rattue: His failure sums up the Blues inadequacy.

Isaia Toeava
2007-12
61 games
96 points

The All Blacks centre made a rare start at number 10 in the 2008 season under coach David Nucifora. Nick Evans was ruled out just before a game against the Stormers following a head knock. The Blues won the clash 17-14

Rattue: His career was a shambles.

David Holwell
2007
6 games
24 points

The Northland great joined the Blues near the tail end of his Super Rugby career after seven years with the Hurricanes. He was the back-up to Nacewa and McAlister, starting in the round six victory over the Lions at Eden Park. Gregor Paul said of his performance in the 41-14 victory: "He was a classic mix of trickery and stability last night and his fellow backs loved running off the old timer". We joined Leinster the following season before returning to play for Northland in NPC.

Rattue: Hurricanes legend, Blues afterthought.

Isa Nacewa
2005-08
44 games
208 points

Nacewa took over the 10 jersey after Luke McAlister suffered an injury in the 2006 season. He retained the starting spot the following season with McAlister moving to second-five. The following year he took a contract in Ireland to play for Leinster where he spent seven seasons.

Rattue: Way better than average.

Luke McAlister
2004-07, 2010-11
51 games
389 points

McAlister was hoped to be the next Carlos Spencer after making his All Blacks debut in 2005 but it's fair to say he didn't live up to the expectations. He was a solid player for the Blues with moments of brilliance but was hampered by injuries. McAlister left the franchise in 2007 after signing with the Sale Sharks before returning to the Blues in 2010. He lasted another two seasons before leaving for France where he's still playing.

Rattue:

Potential world beater who didn't have the head for heights.

Blues Luke McAlister dives over to score against the Stormers in 2010. Photo / NZPA
Blues Luke McAlister dives over to score against the Stormers in 2010. Photo / NZPA

Tasesa Lavea
2004-06, 2009
23 games
30 points

Lavea made the switch from rugby to union in 2003 when he joined the Auckland NPC team. A year later he made his Super Rugby debut but struggled to lock down a starting spot over his first three seasons with the franchise. The Chiefs picked him up from the draft for the '07 season where he played seven matches over two years before one final year at the Blues. He's currently the head coach of the Saint Kentigern First XV.

Blues Tasesa Lavea looks to break the tackle of Lions Willem Alberts. photo / NZPA
Blues Tasesa Lavea looks to break the tackle of Lions Willem Alberts. photo / NZPA

Rattue:

A signpost for how the game was going but got lost himself.

James Arlidge
2001-02
13 games
107 points

Arlidge was sparingly used across his two seasons for the Blues, getting a few starts in 2001 after Spencer suffered an injury. He then played a season for the Highlanders in 2003 before joining the NTT Docomo in Japan. He went onto play 32 tests for Japan including appearances at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Rattue: More traditional and didn't fit the Blues mould.

Jared Going
2001
1 game

Going was a regular on the New Zealand sevens squad who won four World Series titles but he did play one game for the Blues in the 2001 season. He came off the bench to replace first-five James Arlidge in a 28-25 loss to the Bulls in Pretoria.

Rattue: Couldn't live up to the surname.

Amasio Valence
2001
1 game

Another sevens player who played just one game for the Blues. Listed as a first-five on the Blues website his one appearance came in the final regular season game against the Hurricanes off the bench. He was injured for most of the 2001 before joining the squad as a replacement for Eroni Clarke. Valence ended up winning three Commonwealth Games medals with the New Zealand sevens team.

Rattue: I just think sevens player.

Orene Ai'i
2000-05, 2012.
32 games
69 points

The quick-footed Ai'i was an adequate and back-up to Spencer who also slotted into fullback during his six Super Rugby seasons. Kicked two drop goals for the Blues, one shy of Spencer's club record three. Was part of the 2003 title winning side before heading to Japan and France.

Rattue: A little magician who never learned how to play the real game.

Cameron Rackham
1996
4 games

Listed as a first-five and second-five on the Blues website, Rackham came off the bench four times during the inaugural Super Rugby season, including replacing fullback Greg Cooper in the first ever game. Unclear whether he slotted in at 10 once on the field or played outside Spencer. He continued to play club rugby in Auckland before spells at Suntory and Benetton. He's now involved in primary produce in Auckland. Hopefully he still has his winning tankard as a 1996 title winner.

Rattue: I don't even think that name rings a bell.

Carlos Spencer
1996-2005
96 games
608 points

The first and still remains the best Blues first-five. Provided so many highlights in a career which included three Super Rugby titles.

Rattue: The greatest. Brought a magic to the game we'd never seen before.