With both teams facing three games in eight days as they look to make-up lost games earlier in the DHL Super Rugby Pacific competition, the Blues have dug deep into their emerging tyros.
“It is both a challenge and an exciting opportunity,” said Blues head coach, Leon MacDonald. “The situation is simple. You can’t play your most experienced players three times in eight days. It may not be ideal but we just get on with it.
“The exciting thing for me is that we get the opportunity to give valuable game time for some players who have not seen many minutes, and more than that, we have the chance to provide opportunity for some of our really bright young players who have come through the Blues development system.
“Both teams have a number of players who have emerged through the Blues Under-18 and Under-20 programmes. We are taking the positive here and really looking forward to it.”
The Blues starting line-up in the win over the Highlanders on Saturday had 531 caps for the club while the team to start on Tuesday night has 154, with 12 players with three Blues caps or less including four who will be on debut.
There is an experienced look to the front five with All Blacks Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala and Luke Romano included, with the veteran lock from Canterbury to wear the captain’s armband.
In the backs the in-form Stephen Perofeta will anchor the backline but around him is a group of young prospects.
There is excitement in the loose forward trio that comprises Taine Plumtree, Adrian Choat and Anton Segner, while the backline will see Tanielu Tel’ea and Tamati Tua in the midfield with some exciting flyers on the outsides in star winger Mark Telea, AJ Lam and Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepens.
The reserves have some experience in All Blacks Finlay Christie and Karl Tu’inukuafe, making his first appearance for the season. It also a quartet of first-five/fullback Jock McKenzie, midfielder Corey Evans, loose forward Ekuasi Vaiolini and prop Josh Fusitua who were all part of the Blues Under-20s.
The remainder of the squad will have their sights set on preparation for Saturday’s second game against their cross-city rivals, with full crowds to be welcomed back to Eden Park. Tickets are now on sale for as little as $20 for an adult General Admission ticket which includes up to four children free.
Trains and event-buses are incorporated in the price of a pre-purchased ticket.
The Blues team to play Moana Pasifika on Tuesday at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland is (Blues caps in brackets):
1. Alex Hodgman 45)
2. Ricky Riccitelli (3)
3. Nepo Laulala (16)
4. Luke Romano (3) ©
5. Sam Darry (9)
6. Taine Plumtree (2)
7. Adrian Choat (8)
8. Anton Segner (1)
9. Taufa Funaki (2)
10. Stephen Perofeta (35)
11. AJ Lam (10)
12. Tanielu Tel’ea (15)
13. Tamati Tua (1)
14. Mark Telea (29)
15. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepens (2)
16. Soane Vikena (7)
17. Josh Fusitua (0)
18. Karl Tu’inukuafe (33)
19. Cameron Suafoa (0)
20. Vaiolini Ekuasi (0)
21. Finlay Christie (21)
22. Corey Evans (1)
23. Jock McKenzie (0)
Not considered: Akira Ioane, Harry Plummer, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Beauden Barrett, Josh Goodhue, Dalton Papalii, Rieko Ioane, Hoskins Sotutu.