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- 24th Feb 2012
- KO 06:35
- Ground: Eden Park, Auckland
Blues v Crusaders: Teams
At Eden Park, Friday February 24, kick-off 6.35am
Michael Hobbs has edged out World Cup winner Piri Weepu for the Blues No.10 shirt for the Super Rugby opener against the Crusaders at Eden Park on Friday.
Weepu will start the mouth-watering encounter on the bench, with former Highlander Hobbs having earned his place after a stellar pre-season.
"Michael Hobbs impressed in the last game and throughout the pre-season and he's in great nick so he will start at 10," coach Pat Lam said.
"There was really good competition for the No.10 jersey and Piri showed his class but at this stage we feel it is best to bring him off the bench."
Flanker Chris Lowrey and winger David Raikuna are also rewarded for their form in the build up to the new campaign with places in the starting XV, while Tom McCartney, who is usually a hooker, fills in at loosehead prop.
On the bench, Brad Mika is poised to make his first appearance for the Blues since 2005 while Hadleigh Parkes will make his debut if the Auckland centre is called upon.
Former New Zealand Under-20s skipper Tyler Bleyendaal will fill in for the injured Dan Carter for the Crusaders.
Bleyendaal earned rave reviews in pre-season and he will look to carry this form into the opener against the Blues.
Coach Todd Blackadder has also named Tom Marshall at full-back, with Israel Dagg switching to the wing.
In the pack, hooker Quentin MacDonald and prop Ben Franks are preferred to All Blacks Corey Flynn and Owen Franks, while former Highlander Tom Donnelly gets his first start for the Crusaders in the second row.
Donnelly gets the nod ahead of Luke Romano and Ross Kennedy for a place in the pack alongside All Black Sam Whitelock, with his line-out ability influencing the selection.
"We looked at the team dynamics and the way the game is being refereed at the moment and we feel there are going to be more lineouts," said Blackadder.
"So much of this week isn't about whom we consider the best players but who is ready to go right now.
"We feel that Tom and Sam together against Ali (Williams) and Anthony (Boric) will be a good match-up. Both have played really well and Luke Romano is a big, strong guy who can come on and make an impact.
"Pre-season we've seen a lot more line-outs than scrums. Last year you'd have 10 to 12 lineouts a game and at the moment we're getting that after 40 minutes. I suggest that's because of the breakdown."
Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Michael Hobbs, 9 Alby Mathewson; 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Chris Lowrey, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tom McCartney.
Replacements: 16 Pauliasi Manu, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Brad Mika, 19 Luke Braid, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Hadleigh Parkes, 22 Sherwin Stowers.
Crusaders: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Israel Dagg, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willie Heinz, 21 Patrick Osborne, 22 Adam Whitelock.
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|Friday 6th March|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Highlanders|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Western Force|
|Saturday 7th March|
|06:35||Blues vs Lions|
|08:40||Reds vs Waratahs|
|15:05||Cheetahs vs Bulls|
|17:10||Stormers vs Sharks|
|Friday 13th March|
|06:35||Hurricanes vs Blues|
|11:00||Western Force vs Melbourne Rebels|
|Saturday 14th March|
|03:30||Crusaders vs Lions|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Waratahs|
|08:40||Reds vs Brumbies|
|13:00||Stormers vs Chiefs|
|15:05||Cheetahs vs Sharks|
|Friday 20th March|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Hurricanes|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Lions|
|Saturday 21st March|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Cheetahs|
|15:05||Bulls vs Western Force|
|17:10||Sharks vs Chiefs|
|Sunday 22nd March|
|05:05||Waratahs vs Brumbies|
|Friday 27th March|
|06:35||Hurricanes vs Melbourne Rebels|
|09:00||Reds vs Lions|
|Saturday 28th March|
|05:30||Chiefs vs Cheetahs|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Stormers|
|08:40||Waratahs vs Blues|
|15:05||Sharks vs Western Force|
|Saturday 28th February|
|Lions 19 - 22 Stormers|
|Bulls 43 - 35 Sharks|
|Melbourne Rebels 15 - 20 Brumbies|
|Chiefs 40 - 16 Crusaders|
|Friday 27th February|
|Cheetahs 25 - 24 Blues|
|Western Force 13 - 42 Hurricanes|
|Highlanders 20 - 13 Reds|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Sharks 29 - 12 Lions|
|Stormers 27 - 16 Blues|
|Reds 18 - 6 Western Force|
|Highlanders 20 - 26 Crusaders|
|Friday 20th February|
|Bulls 13 - 17 Hurricanes|
|Melbourne Rebels 28 - 38 Waratahs|
|Chiefs 19 - 17 Brumbies|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Waratahs 13 - 25 Western Force|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Bulls 17 - 29 Stormers|
|Sharks 29 - 35 Cheetahs|
|Blues 18 - 23 Chiefs|
|Friday 13th February|
|Lions 8 - 22 Hurricanes|
|Brumbies 47 - 3 Reds|
|Crusaders 10 - 20 Melbourne Rebels|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com