With 25 of their most experienced players returning, the Blues are eager to pick up from where they left off in 2017's Super Rugby season.
The returning players announced in the squad have an average of 29 Super Rugby caps each for the Blues. Additionally the Blues have attracted some experienced players returning to the region to help bolster their playing roster for 2017 and beyond.
Head coach Tana Umaga said the aims are simple.
“We want to start where we left off from last year – and there was some pleasing form late in the 2016 season. And we want to improve game by game throughout the competition," he revealed.
"We won’t be getting ahead of ourselves. Under the current competition format, your form in your own conference is the deciding factor. We were last in the New Zealand Conference this year and so we know there’s a mountain to climb.
"We relish that challenge and we will be looking for the same hard-working team approach, practice-by-practice, game-by-game, week-by-week."
The Blues will look to their pack for leadership with five current All Blacks – Charlie Faumuina, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jerome Kaino and Steven Luatua – Maori All Blacks Akira Ioane and Kara Pryor, and James Parsons, who played for the national team this year but due to injury was not considered for the end-of-year tour.
In the backs George Moala and teenage star Rieko Ioane are included in the All Blacks touring squad, with Billy Guyton and Ihaia West in the Maori All Blacks.
The Blues have attracted some key players who have taken the opportunity to return to the region led by Sonny Bill Williams, Augustine Pulu and Pauliasi Manu – who have all won All Black selection – and experienced Counties Manukau lock/loose forward Jimmy Tupou.
"We think we have a good mix. First and foremost they are players who want to play for the Blues and are proud every day to put on the jersey and build on the rich legacy in this club," added Umaga.
"They know it is going to be hard, extraordinarily hard, but we are looking forward to the challenge."
Forwards: Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Epalahame Faiva, Charlie Faumuina, Blake Gibson, Josh Goodhue, Alex Hodgman, Akira Ioane, Jerome Kaino, Steven Luatua, Sione Mafileo, Pauliasi Manu, Matt Moulds, Brandon Nansen, James Parsons, Sam Prattley, Kara Pryor, Scott Scrafton, Murphy Taramai, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jimmy Tupou, Ofa Tu’ungafasi
Backs: Michael Collins, Matt Duffie, TJ Faiane, Billy Guyton, Rieko Ioane, Matt Vaega, George Moala, Melani Nanai, Sam Nock, Declan O’Donnell, Stephen Perofeta, Augustine Pulu, Rene Ranger, Jordon Trainor, Ihaia West, Sonny Bill Williams, Piers Francis