Auckland Blues coach Sir John Kirwan is looking to Ma’a Nonu and Jerome Kaino to bring more intensity to the team’s Super Rugby clash against the Highlanders at Eden Park on Saturday.
Kirwan has promoted Nonu, Kaino and Hayden Triggs from the bench in making five changes to the team that beat the Cheetahs 40-30 last week.
He said it was great to have two world-class players in Nonu and Kaino back in the starting line-up.
“They’re two World Cup-winning All Blacks,” Kirwan said.
“I like the intensity they bring around the place and I like the way they go about their business. They’re a bit uncompromising, which is what we need against the Highlanders on Saturday.”
Tom McCartney will make his first start of the season at hooker in place of James Parsons, while Triggs earns his first start ahead of Tom Donnelly.
Kirwan said both Parsons and Donnelly had shouldered large workloads this season and it was important to manage them.
“James Parsons is on huge minutes and Tom McCartney deserves a crack at it.
“We’ve taken Tom Donnelly off his legs a bit this week and given him a rest and he’ll be coming off the bench.”
Kaino will start at blindside flanker as Steven Luatua shifts to No.8 to cover Peter Saili, who has been unable to take full part in training this week with a sore foot.
In the backs, Bryn Hall will replace Piri Weepu at No.9 following news the former All Blacks halfback is out of the game for at least four weeks after suffering a minor stroke.
Northland’s Sonatane Takulua, who played in the Blues pre-season fixtures, comes onto the bench as Jamison Gibson-Park is still injured.
Nonu’s inclusion at inside centre means Jackson Willison will move out to No. 13 and George Moala to the wing.
Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Jackson Willison, Ma’a Nonu, George Moala, Simon Hickey, Bryn Hall, Steven Luatua, Luke Braid, Jerome Kaino, Hayden Triggs, Liaki Moli, Charlie Faumuina, Tom McCartney, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: James Parsons, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Angus Ta’avao, Tom Donnelly, Peter Saili, Sonatane Takulua, Pita Ahki, Benji Marshall.