Blues v Crusaders - Super Rugby match preview
Last Updated: 27/02/13 5:36pm
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan has announced an unchanged line-up for Friday's clash against the Crusaders at Eden Park.
The team's impressive first-up performance against the Hurricanes led to Kirwan's decision to keep the same starting XV and bench.
Although Blues may have surprised pundits last week by defeating the Hurricanes, they will have to step up their game to beat the Red-and-Blacks on Friday.
"They're the favourites; they're talking about winning the Championship. I've been reading some articles and listening to the media and they're installed as favourites, as they should be," said Kirwan.
"They're a great football side and we've really got to be on our game."
There will be a one-off change to the Blues kit on the day, a decision made to wear a unique jersey to help fundraise for Men's Health Trust New Zealand.
Meanwhile, All Blacks full-back Israel Dagg has been named on the wing for the Crusaders.
Dagg will join the versatile Tom Taylor, who will step in as a full-back, and Adam Whitelock in the back three in the absence of Zac Guildford and Johnny McNicholl.
Kieran Read will captain the team with Richie McCaw on a six-month sabbatical, whilst Joe Moody and Dominic Bird are prepared to make their Super Rugby debuts off the bench.
Robbie Freuan will also be playing his 50th game for the Crusaders.
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (c), 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tom McCartney.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Liaki Moli, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Bryn Hall, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Jackson Willison.
Crusaders: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Israel Dagg, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tyler Bleyendaal, 22 Tom Marshall.