John Day: Super Rugby 2020 team-by-team preview - Blues

With the Super Rugby season descending quickly upon us - yes, it's still summer outside - Newhub rugby tragic John Day casts his discerning eye over how the New Zealand teams are shaping up for next week's kick-off.


Titles: Three (1996, 97, 2003)

Last season: 13th (5-10-1)

Coach: Leon MacDonald


Props - Alex Hodgman, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Sione Mafileo, Marcel Renata, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Ofa Tu'ungafasi

Hookers - Kurt Eklund, Ray Niuia, James Parsons

Locks - Aaron Carroll, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Josh Goodhue, Jacob Pierce, Patrick Tuipulotu

Loose forwards - Blake Gibson, Akira Ioane, Tony Lamborn, Dalton Papalii, Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa, Tom Robinson, Hoskins Sotutu, James Tucker

Halfbacks - Finlay Christie, Sam Nock, Jonathan Ruru

First-fives - Beauden Barrett, Otere Black, Jack Heighton, Stephen Perofeta, Harry Plummer

Midfielders - TJ Faiane, Rieko Ioane, Joe Marchant, Tanielu Tele'a

Outside backs - Caleb Clarke, Matt Duffie, Jordan Hyland, Emoni Narawa, Jared Page, Mark Telea 

2020 Schedule

Jan 31 v Chiefs

Feb 8 @Waratahs

Feb 14 v Crusaders

Feb 23 @Bulls

Mar 1 @Stormers

Mar 7 @Hurricanes

Mar 14 v Lions

Mar 21 v Brumbies

Apr 3 @Crusaders

Apr 11 v Hurricanes

Apr 18 v Jaguares

Apr 24 @Rebels

May 2 @ Highlanders

May 9 v Reds

May 15 @ Chiefs

May 29 v Highlanders

Sonny Bill Williams & Ma'a Nonu
Sonny Bill Williams & Ma'a Nonu. Photo credit: Photosport

Biggest loss

Plenty was made about Sonny Bill Williams leaving at the Blues, but the player they will miss most is Ma'a Nonu. His second stint with the Auckland franchise went a lot better than his first and now that he's gone, there isn't a lot of experience in the midfield.

Biggest gain

Their season might be over by the time he arrives, but Beauden Barrett is no doubt the biggest gain, not only for the Blues, but for any Kiwi Super Rugby team. After some time off and switching positions for the All Blacks, Barrett will be out to re-establish himself as the best first-five in the country and that's exactly what the Blues have been crying out for.

Biggest question - Can the Blues win derby matches?

After a huge drought, the Blues actually won two derby matches last year, but that means they also lost six games against Kiwi opposition. Until they can beat the other NZ teams regularly, the Blues aren't going to make the playoffs.

Key player

All eyes will be on Rieko Ioane, as he shifts to the new position of centre. The 22-year-old lost his place in the first XV for the All Blacks at the World Cup and his future now seems to be in the 13 jersey.

Rieko Ioane in action for the Blues
Rieko Ioane in action for the Blues.

Ioane's likely to get his hands on the ball a whole lot more and that can only be a good thing for the Blues.

Who the hell is he?

Don't worry if you haven't heard of Joe Marchant, I doubt whether anyone else in New Zealand has either. The 23-year-old is on loan from English club Harlequins and, by all accounts, he's extremely well-suited to play Super Rugby with speed, footwork and silky skills that made him an age-group star.

Fearless prediction

For the first time since 2013, the Blues won't be the worst team in the New Zealand conference. They'll sneak into the playoffs and Leon MacDonald will receive the keys to the city.

John Day is a Newshub sports reporter.