Sonny Bill Williams is poised to return to the Blues after being out for seven weeks with a wrist injury.

If the All Blacks midfielder does take the field against the Hurricanes at Eden Park on Friday it will be a welcome comeback; if he starts in the No12 jersey it will necessitate a re-shuffle to a young but improving combination between Rieko Ioane and Orbyn Leger; both of whom excelled against the Waratahs in Sydney.

Ioane's pace and power on attack at Brookvale Oval was again a major weapon for the Blues, but his defence in the final, frantic moments of the 24-21 victory, just the Blues' third of the season, was just as important. His bootlaces tackle on a threatening Israel Folau will live long in the memory.

That defensive commitment applied too to 21-year-old Leger, the son of former Tonga centre Gus, who, along with fellow youngsters Caleb Clarke – a 19-year-old on debut on the left wing, and right wing Tumua Manu, 25, defused the twin dangers of Folau and the giant Taqele Naiyaravoro admirably.


The Ioane/Leger midfield has been a work in progress for Umaga, who is convinced Ioane can excel while he learns the trade at second-five and adapt again when he goes back to the left wing for the All Blacks.

Leger, too, is playing in an unfamiliar position; he played No10 or N12 for the New Zealand Under-20s, but is adapting well further out in his first season with the Blues after shining during their run to the Brisbane Global Rugby 10s title at the start of the year.

Against the odds, perhaps, it worked in Sydney, but Umaga will have no hesitation about changing things up to make room for Williams, who has played 46 tests for the All Blacks but only three matches for the Blues this season.

He is a game-breaker who will add much-needed quality to a backline which will have its hands full against Beauden Barrett, Ngani Laumapi and company on Friday. Ben Lam, a former Blues wing with 12 tries in nine matches for the Hurricanes this season, will also take some stopping.

If Williams starts at No12, Ioane will likely move to centre – his preferred position.

Williams partnered George Moala in the season-opener against the Highlanders, missed the next match against the Chiefs with a knee injury and partnered Ioane for the next two – the win over the Lions in Johannesburg and defeat to the Stormers in Cape Town where he injured his wrist.

It has been a long and presumably frustrating time on the sidelines for Williams. If the 32-year-old does get an opportunity, he, along with all his teammates, will need to put in a special performance to beat a Hurricanes team with only one defeat this season.

There is also the Eden Park factor to consider; the Blues have yet to win in four times of trying at their former fortress this season.


But, again on the plus side, there is also a possible return for outside back Melani Nanai - an outside back with real pace and the ability to beat defenders.

All of a sudden, Umaga has options and is presiding over a team with an infusion of confidence from their victory over the Waratahs. They may be out of the playoffs themselves again this year but they still have a major part to play in terms of where other teams finish, and in particular the Hurricanes and Crusaders.

The Blues' penultimate game of the season is away against the Hurricanes which comes in between home and away fixtures against Scott Robertson's men.