One of the problem areas for the side had been delivering a consistently solid platform up front, but that appears much more likely as the result of gains made.
QUICK TAP: MA'A NONU BACK IN BLUE FOR 2019 SUPER SEASON
Having Karl Tu'inukuafe back in home territory to work with Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Sione Mafileo, Alex Hodgman, Marcel Renata, and the promising newcomer Ezekial Lindenmuth, will go a long towards boosting the Blues scrum.
Coach Tana Umaga has not made too many changes overall to the squad originally chosen for the 2018 campaign. But Auckland's success in winning the Mitre 10 Cup is reflected in the selection of several players from that side.
Northland lock/loose forward Tom Robinson is one newcomer who had a good campaign in Mitre 10 Cup rugby for his province to help his selection.
Hoskins Sotutu will add some size to the loose forwards. He was part of the Auckland Mitre 10 Cup-winning side, was part of the Blues team that won the Brisbane 10s in 2018 and is a former New Zealand Under-20s player. Another loose forward is former Canterbury flanker Jed Brown, who played nine times for Tasman this year.
His outside back teammate Levi Aumua made a big impression in Tasman's Mitre 10 Cup campaign but also had two games for the Chiefs and has played in France and Australia.
Bryn Gatland's departure for the Highlanders has seen Auckland first five-eighths Harry Plummer join the first five-eighths mix with Otere Black and Stephen Perofeta while another exciting player Tanielu Tele'a has had his decision to tie his colours to the New Zealand mast rewarded with inclusion. He played for Samoa's Under-20 side in 2017 but switched to New Zealand for the 2018 campaign.
Congratulations Karl!@WorldRugby Breakthrough Player of the Year Nominee!In: Karl Tu'inukuafe, Ezekial Lindenmuth, Tom Robinson, Jed Brown, Ma'a Nonu, Levi Aumua.
Fingers crossed for you ????
Out: Pauliasi Manu, Leni Apisai, Isaac Salmon, Kara Pryor, Orbyn Leger*, Jordan Hyland*, Ross Wright*, Mike Tamoaieta, Ben Nee Nee*, Lyndon Dunshea*, Matiaha Martin*, Jerome Kaino, Bryn Gatland, Glenn Preston, Murphy Taramai, Sione Havili*, Antonio Kiri Kiri*, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Matthew Johnson, George Moala, Tamati Tua, Tumua Manu*, Terrence Hepetema*
Place last season: 14th (Played 14, won 4, lost 12)
Alex Hodgman, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Sione Mafileo, Ezekial Lindenmuth, Marcel Renata, Leni Apisai, Matt Moulds, James Parsons, Jimmy Tupou, Patrick Tuipulotu, Scott Scrafton, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Josh Goodhue, Jacob Pierce, Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papali'i, Blake Gibson, Jed Brown, Akira Ioane, Tom Robinson, Augustine Pulu, Jonathan Ruru, Sam Nock, Otere Black, Stephen Perofeta, Harry Plummer, Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, TJ Faiane, Levi Aumua, Caleb Clarke, Rieko Ioane, Matt Duffie, Melani Nanai, Michael Collins, Jordan Trainor, Tanielu Tele'a.
* Short-term contract players
Massive shout out to @SonnyBWilliams earning his 50th test cap for the All Blacks.
An incredible man on and off the field.