Blues squad for SA tour named
Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan has named his 26-man squad for their upcoming tour to South Africa.
The squad will depart from Auckland on Friday to face the Sharks in Durban on June 29 before heading to Bloemfontein to play the Cheetahs on July 6.
Current All Blacks squad members Charles Piutau, Francis Saili, Steven Luatua, Piri Weepu, Keven Mealamu and Rene Ranger will join the team early next week following the third Test match against France in New Plymouth on Saturday.
The squad features 10 players who have not toured South Africa before, including wider training Group player Lolagi Visinia, who played on the wing for the New Zealand U20s in their semi-final loss to England at the IRB Junior World Championship on Tuesday.
Visinia will fly from France following the play-off match against South Africa to join the Blues.
Kirwan said he was pleased with the make-up of his squad.
"I think the biggest factor for us was waiting on the guys' game time from the All Blacks and making sure they're OK to travel," he said.
"We've gone for two halfbacks and three hookers so we've taken a bit of a risk there.
"We're going to bring Lolagi Visinia over from the NZ 20s because he covers two or three positions so that made it a little bit hard on someone like Marty McKenzie, but when you're touring it's just a matter of making sure you get the mix right."
Kirwan said it was crucial to kick-start the tour with a victory over the Sharks to stay in touch with the top six.
"The second week really means nothing yet," He added.
"The Sharks game is a must-win for us, it's like our final and that's because if we win that then we stay completely in touch with the top six.
"The Cheetahs will then become a different kettle of fish so we just need to get back on the horse and play a good game of footy."
Forwards: Tim Perry, Sam Prattley, Angus Ta'avao, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Quentin MacDonald, Keven Mealamu, James Parsons, Anthony Boric, Culum Retallick, Ali Williams, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Peter Saili, Brendon O'Connor, Kane Barrett.
Backs: Jamison Gibson-Park, Piri Weepu, Baden Kerr, Chris Noakes, Francis Saili, Jackson Willison, Rene Ranger, George Moala, Frank Halai, Charles Piutau, Lolagi Visinia.