Sonny Bill Williams will captain the Blues as they chase their first Super Rugby win of the season against the Sunwolves at Eden Park on Saturday night.
It will be the first time in the All Blacks midfielder's Super Rugby career that he has been given the reins, in what shapes as a stern test against the surging Sunwolves.
After impressing during the pre-season, coach Leon Macdonald has awarded Harry Plummer with a start at number 10, with regular Otere Black moving to the reserves.
Loose forward Blake Gibson will make his first appearance, starting on the openside flank after being sidelined with long term injury. His return allows All Black Dalton Papalii to come off the bench after playing high minutes in the opening three games.
Towering lock Scott Scrafton will come off the bench after nearly one year out of the sport with an ACL tear.
Ofa Tunungafasi and Patrick Tuipulotu are both being rested in accordance with all Blacks policy.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks of long travel, short turnarounds, hot conditions, and performances that were below our capabilities,” said Macdonald.
"It's good to have some of our key injured players back to inject some freshness," said Macdonald. "Both in the starting team and off the bench."
The Japanese visitors are fresh off their history-making win over the Chiefs in Hamilton last week, and Macdonald expects them to carry that momentum through to Eden Park.
"Clearly the Sunwolves are a vastly different team with a lot of New Zealand and Australian players with Super Rugby experience.
"They proved their capability last week with the win against the Chiefs and we are under no illusions of the challenge they will bring."
Blues: 1- Karl Tu’inukuafe, 2- James Parsons, 3- Sione Mafileo, 4- Josh Goodhue, 5- Josh Goodhue, 6- Tom Robinson, 7- Blake Gibson, 8- Akira Ioane, 9- Augustine Pulu, 10- Harry Plummer,, 11- Rieko Ioane, 12- Sonny Bill Williams (captain), 13- TJ Faiane, 14- Tanielu Tele’a, 15- Melani Nanai
Reserves: 16- Matt Moulds, 17- Marcel Renata, 18- Lua Li,, 19- Scott Scrafton, 20- Dalton Papalii, 21- Sam Nock, 22- Otere Black, 23- Otere Black
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