Leon MacDonald's absence from training on Thursday adds another layer of intrigue to an opening round transtasman match in Melbourne the Blues are heavily favoured to win.
In a precautionary move, Blues head coach MacDonald stayed home from his team's final training session this week due to a minor cold.
That left others to bark orders, and assistant coach Tana Umaga to step in for media duties before the Blues departed for Melbourne on Thursday afternoon.
Umaga was unsure when MacDonald will rejoin the squad, providing a distraction two days prior to the Blues' match against the Rebels on Saturday night.
It is understood MacDonald won't travel with the team but is instead expected to arrive in Melbourne Friday.
The Blues are already without injured captain Patrick Tuipulotu and All Blacks flanker Dalton Papalii this week.
Emerging from a week off following their frustrating Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, where they missed the final after winning four of eight games, the Blues desperately need to start the resumption in the transtasman rivalry with not only victory, but a performance that proves their intent.
"With Leon being away he had a bit of a sniffle this morning," Umaga said. "We're trying to take every precaution to make sure we play our role as part of that. He's got to make sure he keeps in touch with the doc, but I'm sure he'll be fine whether he travels today or tomorrow he'll get over there at some stage.
"We get to travel which is an anomaly these days. That's something to be excited about, but we're a bit cautious with everything that's happening in the world. We've got a job to do and we're looking forward to getting this competition underway."
The Blues have made four changes from the team that defeated a second-string Chiefs side in their final Aotearoa match. Robinson assumes the captaincy for the third time this season in Tuipulotu's absence; AJ Lam earns his first start on the left wing vacated by Caleb Clarke; TJ Faiane returns at second five-eighth for his 50th cap and Josh Goodhue comes in at lock for injured rookie Sam Darry.
Zarn Sullivan's retention for his second start at fullback over Stephen Perofeta leaves the Blues with a largely green back three that Wallabies playmaker Matt Toomua and dangerous wing Marika Koroibete are sure to test.
The quirk of using the gilbert ball in Australia, as opposed to the adidas in New Zealand, may take some adjustment too.
"Not every oval ball is the same apparently," Umaga said. "It's usually the hookers and kickers who handle the ball the most and find little things wrong with it. When Australian teams come to New Zealand they have to deal with that too."
The five Australian teams have been largely written off by odds-makers on both sides of the ditch but Robinson made it clear the Blues were having none of the perceived disparity as they seek to seize their second chance to chase silverware.
"I reckon the bookies are crazy," Robinson said. "All the footage we've seen of the Aussie teams they're good and from past experiences I reckon they're more physical than playing the South Africans. We're expecting the intensity to be higher than the New Zealand competition, that's the mindset we're bringing anyway.
"We've had some pretty honest conversations over the past week and feel like we've set the foundation for us to win this competition. We weren't happy with how we went in Aotearoa. We were guilty of thinking we'd roll on the back of what happened last year. We're here to do the business."
Realistically the Blues must win this match to walk the talk in regards to the inaugural transtasman title, with the Reds and Brumbies expected to provide sterner tests in the coming weeks.
The Rebels are in a state of flux having pushed their head coach, Dave Wessels, out the door after a 44 per cent win rate in his four years at the helm. Attack coach Shaun Berne was let go, too, leaving defence mentor Kevin Foote in the interim head coach role.
The locals will also be missing three suspended players - lock Trevor Hosea, No 8 Isi Naisarani and prop Pone Fa'amausili.
In short, despite the disruption, there's no excuses for the Blues.
"They've had a shift in management so we've been trying to anticipate all kinds of things they'll throw at us because we don't know," Umaga said. "The style they had in the previous competition might be different. They're at home, they've got a point to prove like us.
"That chip on our shoulder we owe it to ourselves, our families and fans to be consistent in our performances."
15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 AJ Lam, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Adrian Choat, 6 Tom Robinson (C), 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Marcel Renata, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Karl Tu'inukuafe.
Reserves: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Ofa Tuungafasi, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jacob Pierce, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Mark Telea.
Players not considered with injury: Patrick Tuipulotu (neck), Dalton Papalii (knee).
Season-ending: Jone Macilai, Dillon Hunt, James Lay, Emoni Narawa.