The Blues will be without prop Charlie Faumuina for their clash with the Chiefs at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton this weekend after he injured himself at training on Monday.
With All Black Tony Woodcock still on leave and yet to join the team, the Blues will be without their top props for the Super Rugby derby and Blues head coach Pat Lam conceded Faumuina was a big loss.
"Charlie is looking in good nick and he's an experienced prop for us, he's our number one tighthead at this stage and on the back of Woody not being available it's a big hit for us," Lam said.
Tevita Mailau will start at tighthead in place of Faumuina in the only change to the starting XV from last week, and Lam said he was confident the 26-year-old would step up and do the job on Friday night.
"We trust our depth and that when the next player gets the chance he steps up and does the business. Tevita's been with us for a while and he's an experienced campaigner, he sits in the wings waiting for his chance and he works hard and so he'll get his opportunity on Friday and I'm confident he'll do a good job," he said.
With Mailau moving from the bench to the starting team, it gives young prop Angus Ta'avao the opportunity to earn his first cap after being named on the replacements bench.
New Zealand Under-20 star Gareth Anscombe will also be on the bench with Michael Hobbs given another opportunity to make an impression at flyhalf.
Lam said he considered making changes to the starting XV but decided to give the players an opportunity to right the wrongs of last week's match.
"We looked at the team and contemplated making changes but at the end of the day we realised that right across the board, while some guys played well, every single player could have stepped up and played a bit better so we decided as a coaching team we’d give them another opportunity," he explained.
The Chiefs have their own casualties to contend with after suffering long-term injuries to props Ben Afeaki and Toby Smith, scrumhalf Brendon Leonard and wing Lelia Masaga.
But Lam said he was expecting nothing less than a fierce challenge from the local rivals.
"At the end of the day whoever pulls the Chiefs jersey, you just have to tell them they’'e playing the Blues and you know they're going to come out firing so that's what we're expecting, nothing different.
"The key is we front, match their intensity and better it because there are two teams that lost the opening round, two teams that are desperate for a win and two teams that will really go for it so I'm expecting a great clash," said Lam.
Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Michael Hobbs, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Chris Lowrey, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Tevita Mailau, 2 Keven Mealamu (captain), 1 Tom McCartney
Replacements: 16 Pauliasi Manu, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Bradley Mika, 19 Luke Braid, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Gareth Anscombe, 22 Sherwin Stowers.
Date: Friday, March 2
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.35 (06.35 GMT)
Referee: Keith Brown (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jonathon White (New Zealand), Richard Kelly (New Zealand)
TMO: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
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