Super Rugby Trans-Tasman: Leon MacDonald could miss Blues opening clash against Melbourne Rebels with minor cold

The Blues will head to Melbourne without head coach Leon MacDonald.

The former All Blacks back utility was absent from training on Thursday, opting to remain home with a minor cold.

Assistant coach Tana Umaga took the reins in MacDonald's absence and he may do so again come Saturday night against the Rebels, in the opening round of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.

Newshub understands MacDonald won't travel with his squad on Thursday, but could fly into Melbourne on Friday or Saturday.

It's another unwanted distraction for the Blues, who are without two senior players in captain Patrick Tuipulotu and outstanding loose forward Dalton Papali'i, while also battling a run of just two wins in their last five games.

Umaga told media on Thursday, that while MacDonald's was missing because of a "bit of a sniffle", he is hopeful the coaching staff will be at full strength for the opening round of the competition.

"We're trying to take every precaution to make sure we play our role as part of that," Umaga said.

"He's got to make sure he keeps in touch with doc, but I'm sure he'll be fine whether he travels today or tomorrow - he'll get over there at some stage.

Umaga noted that MacDonald and the medical staff decided to keep him home as a precaution just 24 hours out from travelling in the Australian-New Zealand border bubble.

"We get to travel, which is an anomaly these days. That's something to be excited about, but we're a bit cautious with everything that's happening in the world. 

"We've got a job to do and we're looking forward to getting this competition underway."

The Blues are looking at redemption after an underwhelming Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign that left them a win out of the final.

Despite being favourites to join the Crusaders in the final, two heavy losses to the Crusaders, and a pair of shock defeats at the hands of the Highlanders and Chiefs, left the squad on the outside looking in.

Expectations are high again on the Blues, second-favourites with the NZ Tab behind the Crusaders, but within the squad, there is huge respect for the written-off Australian franchises.

Stand-in skipper Tom Robinson said the underdog Aussie outfits pose a dangerous threat to a predicted all-Kiwi finale. 

"I reckon the bookies are crazy," Robinson said. "All the footage we've seen of the Aussie teams, they're good.

"We're expecting the intensity to be higher than the New Zealand competition, that's the mindset we're bringing anyway.

"We've had some pretty honest conversations over the past week and we feel like we've set the foundation for us to win this competition. 

"We weren't happy with how we went in Aotearoa. 

"We were guilty of thinking we'd roll on the back of what happened last year. 

"We're here to do the business."

But the Blues could find themselves bankrupt if they fall short at the first hurdle on Saturday. 

Join Newshub for live updates of the Super Rugby clash between the Blues and the Rebels from 9:45pm Saturday.