Super Rugby: Blues coach Leon MacDonald unsure on starting first-five for Crusaders opener

Blues coach Leon MacDonald is still in two minds over a "few positions" in his squad, a week out from the start of the new Super Rugby season.

MacDonald gave all his available players some valuable game time during the Blues' final pre-season clash against the Hurricanes in Mangatainoka, which the Auckland side won 38-31.

The Blues boss has been pleased with his team's performance during pre-season but knows all will change when the gruelling home-and-away season starts.

MacDonald has a rough idea on what his squad will look like for next week's clash against the two-time defending champion Crusaders at Eden Park, but is unsure of who will start at first-five, and in the midfield.

The three-way battle for the 10 jersey appears to be the most intriguing, with Otere Black, Stephen Perofeta and Harry Plummer all in line to start.

MacDonald wasn't willing to give any hints away and will have to deliberate with his assistant coaches before naming the team later in the week.

"There are a few positions up for grabs in round one," he told Newshub. "Some guys have played their way into contention for round one which is great."

"We've got three very good tens. Harry is a young up-and-comer, and he's determined to become the number one and pushing for that starting spot over Otere and Stephen who have also played well.

"This is going to be one of the toughest decisions."

In the midfield, test capped All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams, and Ma'a Nonu appear the likely candidates to start, but MacDonald has been impressed with young trio Levi Aumua, Tanielu Tele'a and TJ Faiane during pre-season.

Ma'a Nonu talks to Leon MacDonald.
Ma'a Nonu talks to Leon MacDonald. Photo credit: Photosport

With Williams being a current All Black, he has to be rested every few games to avoid fatigue with the World Cup approaching, meaning there will be some movement in the 12 and 13 jerseys during the season.

"We have guys like Ma'a and Sonny in the mix but it being a World Cup year, you have to use them well and make sure you're rotating them to get the best out of them," MacDonald added. 

"You have a guy like TJ who is at the top of his game has played well too so there are plenty of options and young guys like Levi and Taniela have played well also.

Regardless of who starts next Saturday, the Blues will have a tough test on their hands against the Crusaders.

The Blues haven't beaten the Canterbury-based franchise since 2014 when the likes of Piri Weepu and Benji Marshall were members of the squad.

However, three of the last five results between the two teams have been decided by 10 points or less.

Both sides have been without their All Blacks during the pre-season, so MacDonald isn't reading too much into Crusaders' trial matches against

"With the All Blacks, it is case by case on their fitness level and their work load so all of our guys have come back and I'm sure all will feature.

"Both teams will be different with their All Blacks coming in and untested coming off a 12-week break so whatever happens in pre-season half of it is thrown out the door.

"It will be interesting to see who uses them the best and how you continue with momentum from these games."


Join us at 7:30pm Friday for live updates of the Blues vs Crusaders Super Rugby clash.

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