Matiaha Martin will make his Blues’ debut when he runs out at lock against the Crusaders in a local Super Rugby derby at Eden Park on Saturday night.
Counties Manukau’s Martin comes in for injured All Black Patrick Tuipulotu, to join Gerard Cowley-Tuioti in the second row. Fellow locks Scott Scrafton and Jimmy Tupou are out with season-ending injuries.
Pauliasi Manu is reunited in the front-row with James Parsons and Ofa Tuungafasi, with the trio sporting 213 Super Rugby caps between them.
There is a potent loose forward trio with Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii (bracketed with Murphy Taramai) and Jerome Kaino, who plays his 135th game for the Blues, closing in on the 137 caps achieved by Tony Woodcock, who sits second on the all-time list behind Keven Mealamu.
Melani Nanai, who missed five games with injury, comes back into the starting line-up on the right wing allowing Rieko Ioane to play on his preferred left wing, with the in-form Orbyn Leger again pairing with Sonny Bill Williams in midfield. Captain Augustine Pulu starts at scrum-half again inside Stephen Perofeta.
Michael Collins returns after missing four games through injury, listed on the bench that includes Northland captain Matt Moulds, who will earn his 20th and blazer game should he get on.
Coach Tana Umaga said he was pleased to welcome some of his experienced players back into the team, noting that Caleb Clarke has not been selected after receiving a slight knock in last week’s game.
He leaves the team on Sunday to join the New Zealand U20 squad before they fly out next week for the Rugby World Championship in France.
Umaga said that Martin had impressed since coming in as a replacement and earned his start.
Blues: 15 Matt Duffie, 14 Melani Nanai, 13 Orbyn Leger, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Augustine Pulu (c), 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii or Murphy Taramai, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Matiaha Martin, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ross Wright, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Ben Nee-Nee, 20 Murphy Taramai or Antonio Kiri Kiri, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Dan Kirkpatrick, 23 Michael Collins
Date: Saturday, May 19
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Cam Stone (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
Television match official: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)