Keven Mealamu will make his first appearance of the year for the Blues when they take on the Highlanders in their final Super Rugby pre-season match at Unitec on Friday.
The Blues captain is the last All Black to return to action - other than Ma’a Nonu (still in Japan) and Tony Woodcock (injured) - and he will be joined by a number of his World Cup-winning All Black teammates as Pat Lam rolls out a strong side for the final warm-up match.
Jerome Kaino, the world’s best blindside flank, will once again start at No.8 as 2011 Blues player of the year Luke Braid makes his first appearance after overcoming shoulder surgery in the off-season.
He will be joined by older brother Daniel on the openside flank.
Hooker Tom McCartney will get to show his versatility as he starts at loosehead prop, while Michael Hobbs has been handed the No.10 jersey to take on his former team.
In one of the most hotly contested positions in the Blues this season, Hobbs looks to have the front running to secure the flyhalf duties for the season-opener against the Crusaders, with Piri Weepu nursing an ankle injury while Gareth Anscombe is still adjusting to his first year of Super Rugby.
Fullback Rudi Wulf will be hoping to continue the fine early season form which has seen him score three tries in the opening two matches, while Rene Ranger partners Benson Stanley in the midfield.
Those unavailable due to injury include George Moala (shoulder) and Sherwin Stowers (ankle).
Blues: 15 Rudi Wulf, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Lachie Munro, 10 Michael Hobbs, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tom McCartney.
Replacements: Most of the remaining squad will be on the bench.
Date: Friday, February. 17
Venue: Unitec ( Mt Albert), Auckland
Kick-off: 14.00 (01.00 GMT)
Assistant referees: Bryce/Mike, Shaun Elliott
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