Their season is gone but the Blues' squad members would do well to remember that in some cases they are playing for their futures under coach Tana Umaga in 2019.

The Rebels early tomorrow evening would appear to present an ideal opportunity for the Blues to break their Eden Park duck this season.

The Australians are second in their conference behind the Waratahs but have lost six matches this season, including some bad ones at home at the hands of the Hurricanes, Jaguares and Crusaders, the latter putting 55 points on them.

Umaga's men have lost nine of their 12 matches, including all six at home, and will be missing wing Rieko Ioane to an All Black rest protocol and hooker James Parsons to concussion.


Second-five Sonny Bill Williams has been bracketed with Terrence Hepetema due to a knock to a knee suffered earlier this week at the All Blacks training camp in Christchurch.

As Umaga outlined yesterday, attitude counts for everything at this level and that's one of the reasons behind the remarkable rise of openside flanker Dalton Papali'i, who is thriving in the absence of Blake Gibson.

Papali'i, 20, in his first year in Super Rugby, impressed in pre-season and would have started as the Blues' preferred No7 but for an injury in the final warm-up match against the Hurricanes.

"Blake's not far away [from returning] which is a positive," Umaga said.

"Yet you can't not look at the form Dalton's in. He's one of our form players and is doing everything we're asking.

"He doesn't step back from much and loves a challenge.

"He's tough — he played with a bit of a mouth injury and he just gets through his work. That's what comes through."

After threatening to make the playoffs last year, the Blues, 14th of 15 teams, will fall well short this season.

Umaga agreed his side were playing for pride as always but there are some with more to lose than others.

Only three players made the All Blacks squad for next month's three tests against France, an almost unheard of low number, so there are some with plenty to prove over the remaining four matches of the season.

Williams was due to have a scan on his injured knee yesterday; he's another player All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will be watching closely given the concussion issues suffered by his ABs midfield partner Ryan Crotty.

For wing or midfielder Ioane, the rest had been planned well in advanced for the best player at the Blues this season.

"Obviously we'd love to have him out there but it's just one of these protocols we've got to adjust to, as every club does," Umaga said.