Auckland Super Rugby franchise the Blues have named their team to play the British and Irish Lions at Eden Park on Wednesday.
The Blues will have eight current or former All Blacks in their side to play the Lions, led by Captain James Parsons, when the team was named at their training facility at Alexandra Park today.
Head Coach Tana Umaga said the side was looking forward to what is a special occasion.
“Our focus all season has been on Super Rugby – it has had to be. So while the lead-up is short, there’s no doubt that this game is going to be a really special day for our players and our club to play against the British and Irish Lions,” Umaga said.
“It is something that I experienced as a player and has remained with me.
“There’s no doubt it will be a challenging turnaround for us. In the last 30 days we have played four Super games in New Zealand, South Africa and Samoa and now the British and Irish Lions.
“We are fortunate to have some senior players back from injury which will be a help.
“The reality is that it will not take much to motivate for this game. It is a special occasion and I hope the guys do themselves, their families and their club proud. “
Players returning who missed the win over the Reds in Samoa include All Blacks Charlie Faumuina, Sonny Bill Williams and George Moala along with Maori All Black Ihaia West, Blake Gibson, Augustine Pulu, Matt Duffie and Michael Collins.
Williams, recovering from a knee injury, is bracketed with TJ Faiane and will need to come through Monday’s training session before confirmation.
Faumuina will be the most-capped Blues player on display, playing his 98th game for the club, while other players with more than 50 games for the Blues include Parsons (77), Steven Luatua (73), Moala (67) and Ofa Tu’ungafasi (55).
Missing because of injury is inspirational 77-Test All Black Jerome Kaino and prop Pauliasi Manu.
Umaga said that Kaino, who had surgery on his knee in mid-April, was recovering well but not quite to the level to be considered for selection. He is the only Blues player who played against the 2005 British and Irish Lions, coming on as a replacement for Auckland.
1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons (c), 3 Charlie Faumuina, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5 Scott Scrafton, 6 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 8 Steven Luatua; 9 Augustine Pulu, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 11 Rieko Ioane, 12 Sonny Bill Williams/TJ Faiane, 13 George Moala, 14 Matt Duffie, 15 Michael Collins.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Ihaia West, 23 TJ Faiane/Melani Nanai.