Former Melbourne Storm winger Matt Duffie will make his Super Rugby debut at fullback for the Blues after coach Tana Umaga made a host of changes to his starting team to face the Crusaders on Friday.
Despite an encouraging 33-31 opening win over the defending champion Highlanders in Auckland last weekend, new Blues boss Umaga has flung the selection revolving door for the second-round game in Christchurch.
Most changes are to the backline, where 25-year-old former NRL speedster and New Zealand rugby league internbational Duffie replaces the injured Lolagi Visinia.
Last week’s three back reserves are all promoted.
Centre Rene Ranger, five-eighth Matt McGahan and halfback Billy Guyton replace Japan international Male Sa’u, Ihaia West and Bryn Hall respectively.
McGahan and Guyton boast six Super Rugby caps between them in the halves but that is countered by Ranger’s top-flight experience.
It will be the powerful centre’s first Blues start for nearly three years, having spent most of that time playing in France.
There is the prospect of another change out wide, with last week’s right winger Melani Nanai bracketed with sevens international Rieko Ioane.
Up front, captain Jerome Kaino returns on the blindside flank for Joe Edwards while James Parsons makes way at hooker for Quentin MacDonald.
Umaga, who is persisting with All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina and brutal loose forward Akira Ioane on his reserves bench, made no apology for the number of changes.
“We are going to need the entire squad throughout the year so it is important they get a taste of Super Rugby from the start,” he said.
“We do not want to get to the situation where we are forced to put players in to roles without them first experiencing it.”
Blues (15-1): Matt Duffie, Melani Nanai/Rieko Ioane, Rene Ranger, George Moala, Tevita Li, Matt McGahan, Billy Guyton, Steven Luatua, Blake Gibson, Jerome Kaino (capt), Josh Bekhuis, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sione Mafileo, Quentin MacDonald, Ofa Tu’ungafasi. Res: James Parsons, Sam Prattley, Charlie Faumuina, Akira Ioane, Kara Pryor, Bryn Hall, Ihaia West, Male Sa’u.