Blues coach Pat Lam, as expected, left four of his All Blacks at home when he named the team for the three-match road trip that will kick-off their Super 14 campaign.
Rugby 365 reports that the Blues start with a season opener against the Western Force in Perth on Friday, followed by games against the Bulls in Pretoria and the Stormers in Cape Town.
It is not the kind of tour you want to undertake without seasoned campaigners like wing Rudi Wulf, lock Ali Williams, flank Jerome Kaino and wing Joe Rokocoko.
Wulf was not considered for the trip because of a broken wrist, while Williams has an ongoing back problem. His brother, Jay, is also unavailable due to an ankle injury – leaving the Blues very thin in the second row.
Kaino and Rokocoko are also out of the travelling party which left Auckland on Sunday because of paternity leave.
Both players are expecting their first children in the coming week.
Better news was that former Highlanders flanker Josh Blackie will join the squad for the first time in Perth after his club Kobe was eliminated from the Japanese league play-offs over the weekend.
Blues squad: Paul Williams, Rene Ranger, Jamie Helleur, Isaia Toeava, Anthony Tuitavake, Winston Stanley, Benson Stanley, Michael Hobbs, Tasesa Lavea, Jimmy Gopperth, Taniela Moa, Chris Smylie, Peter Saili, Chris Lowrey, Justin Collins, Onosai’i Auva’a, Josh Blackie, Kurtis Haiu, Anthony Boric, Dean Budd, John Afoa, Tevita Mailau, Charlie Faumuina, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu (captain), Tom McCartney.Tweet