The Blues and Hurricanes have named teams packed with All Blacks for their pre-season clash in Eketahuna on Saturday.
The Blues kickstarted their season with a 59-7 win over the Rebels, while the Force surprised the Hurricanes with a 28-0 victory.
Leading the charge from the back for the Blues will be the midfield pairing of Rene Ranger and George Moala, while the forwards are boosted by the strength of captain Jerome Kaino and Steven Luatua. Charlie Faumuina and Patrick Tuipulotu will also provide fresh forwards legs from the bench.
Kaino believes the Wellington-based side will pose a significant threat this weekend.
'The Hurricanes are full-strength, so it’ll be a couple of notches up in terms of standard and intensity, which is exactly what we’re wanting going into the season.'
The Canes will be led by No 9 TJ Perenara in what, they will hope, will be a redeeming match after their loss to the Force. With Beauden Barrett in the pivot position, they form a formidable halfback pairing who will aim to control the pace of the game in loose play. Winger Cory Jane can add further attacking power, while All Black Victor Vito will beef up the forwards.
Blues – 15 Matt Duffie, 14 Melani Nanai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 George Moala, 11 Matt Vaega, 10 Matt McGahan, 9 Billy Guyton, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Jack Ram, 6 Jerome Kaino (c), 5 Hoani Matenga, 4 Scott Scrafton, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Namatahi Waa.
Subs: 16 James Parsons, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Matt Matich, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Male Sa’u, 24 Charlie Faumuina, 25 Josh Bekhuis, 26 Blake Gibson, 27 Joe Edwards, 28 Tevita Li, 29 Michael Little, 30 Lolagi Visinia.
Hurricanes – 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara (c), 8 Victor Vito, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Mark Abbott, 4 Blade Thomson, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Subs: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ben May, 19 Hisa Sasagi, 20 Loni Uhila, 21 James Blackwell, 22 Vaea Fifita, 23 Tony Lamborn, 24 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 25 Otere Black, 26 James Marshall, 27 Pita Ahki, 28 Willis Halaholo, 29 Jason Woodward, 30 Wes Goosen, 31 Malo Tuitama.
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images