Ma'a Nonu to start, SBW on the bench for Blues against Crusaders

Ma'a Nonu will have an early chance to show Kiwi rugby fans and All Blacks selectors he's still a dangerous midfielder after being named to start for the Blues in their opening round match against the Crusaders.

Coach Leon MacDonald has named his match day 23 for Saturday's clash at Eden Park, opting to hand Nonu the No.13 jersey with TJ Faiane inside him, which leaves Sonny Bill Williams on the bench.

Nonu, returning to the Blues for a third spell, after spending three seasons in Europe, will play his 161st Super Rugby game on the weekend, making the 36-year-old the most capped player in the competition.

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The 36-year old is in preparation for his third stint with the Blues. Source: 1 NEWS

However, another significant milestone will be struck with 23-year-old Akira Ioane set to earn his 50th Blues cap when he starts at No.8.

The Blues will also finally welcome Otere Black for his long-awaited debut, after he missed the entire 2018 Super Rugby season with a serious knee injury.

Another Blues debutant, 2018 All Blacks breakout Karl Tu'inukuafe, will play his first game in blue from the bench though with MacDonald putting plenty of experience in his reserves.

Besides Williams and Tu'inukuafe, All Black Ofa Tu'ungafasi has also been named on the bench. They're joined by experienced halfback Augustine Pulu and Northland captain Matt Moulds.

All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu will captain the side in the No.4 jersey.

Blues:  15 Michael Collins, 14 Melani Nanai, 13 Ma’a Nonu, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru; 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu ©, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.

Reserves: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Matt Matich, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Sonny Bill Williams.

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Nonu, 36, didn't miss a beat for the Blues as they edged the Hurricanes 38-31 in Mangatainoka. Source: 1 NEWS

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