Blues call up their ABs

The Blues have called in their heavyweights, naming six All Blacks for their first starts of the Super Rugby season in Saturday's clash with the Highlanders at Eden Park.

Having used a talent-stacked bench without fruition against the Chiefs last week after being reduced to 14 men for more than half the game, Coach Tana Umaga has given his stars a chance from the opening whistle in this key Kiwi derby.

Co-captains James Parsons and Jerome Kaino are named in the pack that also sees prop Charlie Faumuina and lock Patrick Tuipulotu in the starting eight.

There's a further change in the forwards with North Harbour newcomer Murphy Taramai to make his first Super Rugby start at No 8, meaning Akira Ioane drops to the bench.

In the backs All Blacks George Moala comes in at second-five and Rene Ranger on to the wing to replace the Piers Francis and Melani Nanai, who will see action off the bench.

Hooker Parsons will captain the side in his first-team return from concussion. He completed 40 minutes of action for the Blues Development side last weekend to satisfy his bosses.

"Jerome and Patrick had delayed starts while Charlie has worked his way to excellent form, and both George and Rene impressed when they came on last week against the Chiefs," Umaga said.

"There's good depth in this squad and so there is going to be times when strong players won't get starts always."

BLUES: Michael Collins, Matt Duffie, Rieko Ioane, George Moala, Rene Ranger, Ihaia West, Augustine Pulu; Murphy Taramai, Blake Gibson, Jerome Kaino, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jimmy Tupou, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons (c), Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Matt Moulds, Sam Prattley, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Akira Ioane or Kara Pryor, Billy Guyton, Piers Francis, Melani Nanai.


Photo: PHOTOSPORT (Jerome Kaino brings his power and ball skills back to the starting pack for the Blues).