The NSW Waratahs will face the same Blues starting side that sparked a 40-15 thrashing of the Brumbies last weekend as they battle to keep the Super Rugby playoff hopes alive.
But their task in the crucial Super Rugby final round clash at Auckland’s Eden Park could be made even more difficult by the return of All Blacks Charlie Faumuina and George Moala from injury via the bench.
Locked in a struggle with the Brumbies for one available playoffs berth as Australian conference champions, the Waratahs almost certainly need to win and claim a bonus point to have any chance of advancing, with the Brumbies due to face the lowly Western Force at home on Saturday.
The Blues are the only one of the five New Zealand sides to miss out on the finals but still present a formidable hurdle as they finish their season strongly under new coach Tana Umaga, who has selected the same starting line up for the third match in a row since the international window.
Prop Faumuina (knee) and outside back Moala (elbow) have been sidelined by injury since the final Test against Wales in June.
But the pair have been bracketed in the reserves for Friday night and Umaga said it would be a case of seeing how they came through training.
“We just have to make sure we do what’s right by them,” he said.
“They’re keen to play, as players are, and obviously it’s our last game. They want to help the team as much as possible, but we have to make sure they’re 100 per cent and not pushing things too much.”
Blues: Melani Nanai, Matt Duffie, Male Sa’u, Piers Francis, Tevita Li, Ihaia West, Bryn Hall, Steven Luatua, Kara Pryor, Jerome Kaino, Josh Bekhuis, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, James Parsons (capt), Sam Prattley. Res: Matt Moulds, Nic Mayhew, Sione Mafileo/Charlie Faumuina, Scott Scrafton, Blake Gibson, Billy Guyton, Matt Vaega/George Moala, Lolagi Visinia.