David Nucifora has mixed and matched in losing his first two warm-up matches against the Reds and Waratahs, but the Blues coach picked his best available starting team to play the Western Force in Auckland on Thursday.
Interestingly, Nucifora has picked the North Habour centre pairing of Rua Tipoki and Anthony Tuitavake to start. The duo were the form midfield in the 2005 NPC and many critics were stunned that All Blacks coach Graham Henry could find no place for Tuitavake in the touring squad to the United Kingdom.
Auckland players who won the NPC in 2005 feature strongly in the line-up, while six of the Grand Slam All Blacks are in the starting XV.
BLUES:15 Brent Ward, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Rua Tipoki, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Tasesa Lavea, 9 John Senio, 8 Angus Macdonald, 7 Daniel Braid/Justin Collins, 6 Nick Williams, 5 Greg Rawlinson, 4 Ali Williams, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (cap), 1 Tony Woodcock. Subs: 16 Tim Dow, 17 Chris Heard, 18 Mike Noble, 19 Kurtis Haiu, 20 Anthony Boric, 21 Justin Collins, 22 Junior Poluleuligaga, 23 George Pisi, 24 Ben Atiga, 25 Villie Waqaseduadua, 26 Isa Nacewa.