Blues farewell for three legends
The Blues have plenty to play for in their final Super Rugby match of the season, against the Highlanders at Eden Park on Friday.
Iconic hooker Keven Mealamu will lead the team in his 175th and final Super Rugby match, while fellow All Black James Parsons will come off the bench for his 50th cap for the Blues.
Friday also marks the end of an era for some of the Blues' longest serving players.
Mealamu will be stepping on to the field for his last time in the Blues jersey.
Tony Woodcock, who is out from play with a shoulder injury, and Luke Braid, out with a concussion, will be sitting in the Blues players' box for their final game.
It's been a difficult season for the Blues, but one in which the players have grown closer and united under the leadership team.
Mealamu, Braid and Woodcock have each led the team in different manners and with different titles throughout the years.
Braid made his Blues debut in 2011 against the Crusaders and has since earned 70 caps for the team. Before coming on board with the Blues, Braid earned nine caps for the Chiefs. But he leapt at the opportunity to move north and play with his brother, Daniel Braid.
"The Blues was always my favourite team with my brother playing for them," he said.
"When I got the opportunity to leave the Chiefs and play for the Blues, I couldn't turn that offer down and I never looked back."
In 2014 Braid was named team captain at the age of 25, but first stepped up to the role in 2012 to fill in for Mealamu, when he was out with injury.
Mealamu and Woodcock will also be enjoying their final game with the team on Friday, but both still have some World Cup business to attend to.
Mealamu will be farewelling his Blues jersey on an incredible (and world's best) 175 Super Rugby caps, while Woodcock will be completing his Blues season with 149.
Three players who are leaving for overseas will start against the Highlanders.
Brendon O'Connor, who along with Jamison Gibson-Park are the only Blues players who have played in every game this season, will head to Leicester in England later in the year.
Two others heading overseas are welcomed back from injury in Charles Piutau, returning after five weeks out with a knee injury, and Angus Ta'avao.
Piutau will play at fullback and Ta'avao in the front row after recovering from a shoulder strain.
There are still 12 players on the injury list as well as three players at the Junior World Cup in Italy that has opened the way for a debut Super Rugby start for North Harbour forward Chris Vui, while Northland's former Tongan international Jack Ram comes into the reserves for the first time.
Players not considered because of injury include Dan Bowden, Luke Braid, Charlie Faumuina, Frank Halai, Jerome Kaino, Steven Luatua, Francis Saili, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Pita Ahki.
Parsons said he was honoured to pass on the captaincy on Friday to Mealamu, who has been an inspirational figure for the North Harbour hooker.
"He is a great man and a great player. He has set the benchmark on and off the field and I have learned so much from him," Parsons said.
"For me to play 50 games for the Blues is a huge honour that I am very proud of. It's a special moment not only for me but my family and friends that have helped get me here."
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Ben Lam, 13 Hamish Northcott, 12 George Moala, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Joe Edwards, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Chris Vui, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Hayden Triggs, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Keven Mealamu (captain), 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Will Lloyd, 20 Jack Ram, 21 Jimmy Cowan, 22 Matt McGahan, 23 Lolagi Visinia.
Date: Friday, June 12
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Shane McDermott (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)