Michael Hobbs (left) beats Piri Weepu to the #10 shirt

Blues coach Pat Lam has named a starting line-up of players who earned their jerseys through solid pre-season performances and are in optimum shape to play the Crusaders in the opening round of the Investec Super Rugby season.

Captained by Keven Mealamu, the Blues welcome back winger Rudi Wulf after a stint in Toulon and he is joined by North Harbour speedster David Raikuna who will make his debut this Friday night on the right wing.

“In the highly competitive outside backs, David Raikuna has put his hand up. He had a very good game against the Highlanders so he’s earned his spot on the right wing. With Sherwin Stowers getting injured in the Rebels game it has given David the chance to start and take the opportunity in a big game,” says Lam

Michael Hobbs, also returning to the Blues has secured the No.10 starting position and it is his form to-date that has impressed the coaches.

“Michael Hobbs impressed in the last game and throughout the pre-season. He’s in great nick so he will start at 10,” Lam said. “There was really good competition for the number 10 jersey and Piri showed his class but we feel at this stage as he is just returning to rugby, it is best to bring him off the bench.”

Starting XV:
1.         Tom McCartney
2.         Keven Mealamu ©
3          Charlie Faumuina
4.         Anthony Boric
5.         Ali Williams
6.         Chris Lowrey
7.         Daniel Braid
8.         Jerome Kaino
9.         Alby Mathewson
10.       Michael Hobbs
11.       Rudi Wulf
12.       Benson Stanley
13.       Rene Ranger
14.       David Raikuna
15.       Isaia Toeava

16        Pauliasi Manu
17        Tevita Mailau
18        Brad Mika
19        Luke Braid
20        Piri Weepu
21        Hadleigh Parkes
22        Sherwin Stowers