Blues put squad ethic first

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Lynn McConnell     02 Mar 2016     Getty Images

The inside-back pairing of Billy Guyton and Matt McGahan will start ahead of the incumbent pair of Bryn Hall and Ihaia West who made an impressive combination against the Highlanders.

Stand-in captain and hooker James Parsons has made way for Quentin MacDonald while captain and blindside flanker Jerome Kaino returns after his one-game suspension in place of Joe Edwards while at centre Rene Ranger starts ahead of Male Sa'u and former Melbourne Storm player Matt Duffie will make his debut at fullback with Lolagi Visinia not considered due to injury..

Assistant coach Alistair Rogers said on Wednesday that the selection was a reflection of their squad mentality.

"It's a good opportunity, that's how we see it. We're building a squad, this competition is tough and we're going to need that squad so it's not about anything other than building depth and giving the opportunity to others," he said.

"Obviously individuals will be disappointed but it is about growing depth, it's about the team. Hopefully we've done enough work with those boys and they've been really good. They've been able to put that disappointment aside and been able to switch to what's best for us and making sure the team we have selected and to wear the jerseys this week will have an opportunity and they are as best prepared as they can be.

"We've picked the guys because we believe they are the best for this particular week. We back them to do the job," he said.

It was expected that Matt McGahan would assume the goal-kicking duties.

"The Crusaders are a formidable team, they've got a lot of history and I'm sure they will draw on that this week. It represents another challenge. It's a tough competition and I'm sure they're going to come out with all guns blazing."

Ofa Tu'ungafasi had done plenty of work in the pre-season and he had done his homework and he was in great shape, something that was evident in his first round performance. The Crusaders scrum, and the front row especially, were a formidable force and it was a great opportunity for Tu'ungafasi.

"It's a great test for him to test himself against those boys," he said.

The inability of the Blues to win away from home has been one of the impediments to their performances over the last few years but no special attention had been paid to that factor.

The game was a great opportunity for them and that was the only way they were looking at it.

The team is: 1.Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2.Quentin MacDonald, 3.Sione Mafileo, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu, 5.Josh Bekhuis, 6.Jerome Kaino (captain), 7.Blake Gibson, 8.Steven Luatua, 9.Billy Guyton, 10.Matt McGahan, 11.Tevita Li, 12.George Moala, 13.Rene Ranger, 14.Melani Nanai, 15.Matt Duffie.

Reserves: 16.James Parsons, 17.Sam Prattley, 18.Charlie Faumuina, 19.Akira Ioane, 20.Kara Pryor, 21.Bryn Hall, 22.Ihaia West, 23.Male Sa'u.