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.
Keven Mealamu has been handed the Blues’ captaincy in the absence of regular skipper Jerome Kaino.
The veteran hooker, Mealamu, will lead the team out against the Crusaders in a Super Rugby Round 11 clash in Christchurch on Saturday.
Kaino has been given time out, as part of an agreement with the All Black management, after playing in 8 of the Blues’ 9 games.
He will be joined on the sidelines by fellow All Blacks James Parsons and Charles Piutau, who get their 1st break.
On the flipside props Tony Woodcock and Charlie Faumuina will join Mealamu in an all-All Black front row – boasting 260 Test caps and 383 Super Rugby games collectively between them.
Steven Luatua returns to play at No 8, with teenager Akira Ioane given a 2nd game after his impressive debut last week.
Jimmy Cowan returns to start at scrumhalf, with Lolagi Visinia at fullback.
The decision of All Blacks flyhalf Colin Slade to head to Europe after the World Cup has made coach Steven Hansen very aware that the exodus of New Zealand players is not yet over.
Slade is the 10th All Black so far to announce he is heading offshore at the end of the year, to join French club Pau.
Still to confirm their post-World Cup futures are Julian Savea, Sam Cane and Ryan Crotty and, coupled with expected retirements and the impact of the Olympics, coach Steve Hansen is bracing for a difficult 12 months following the World Cup in England.
Cashed-up European clubs, who once targeted players in the twilight of their careers, assisting the All Blacks into an easy rollover of talent, are now creating a talent drain by luring up-and-coming stars.
Inspirational Blues and All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu will establish a new Super Rugby record in Saturday’s clash with the Lions in Albany.
Mealamu has been named in the Auckland-based team’s starting line-up which will be his 163rd appearance in Super Rugby. This will make him the all-time leader in Super Rugby, a mark he currently shares with retired former Reds, Force and Wallabies lock Nathan Sharpe.
It is the first game of the season for Mealamu who made his debut in 2000.
“Congratulations on becoming the most experienced player in Super Rugby history,” said SANZAR Chief Executive, Greg Peters.
New Zealand and their All Blacks will lose a large number of experienced campaigners and key players after the 2015 Rugby World Cup, next year.
This was highlited due to the announcement this week by Dan Carter that he’ll be joining French Top 14 club Racing Metro after the Rugby World Cup next year, in England and Wales.
Carter, 32, signed a three-year deal with the Paris-based club which will basically mean the end of his All Black career.
However, Carter may not be the only one to leave New Zealand shores.
It appears that captain Richie McCaw, midfielders Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, veteran front-rowers Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu, loose forwards Jerome Kaino and Liam Messam and even Ben Franks, Cory Jane and Charlie Faumuina could also be considering high-paying, late-career stints overseas.
Richie McCaw will become the first player to captain the All Blacks in 100 Tests when he leads New Zealand against Wales on Saturday in his 137th Test.
The 33-year-old flank was named to captain the All Blacks for the match in Cardiff, which could provide some insight into head coach Steve Hansen’s view of his strongest lineup, a year from the next World Cup.
It will be a fitting occasion, as McCaw captained the All Blacks for the first time against the Welsh exactly 10 years ago today, on 20 November 2004, in his 25th Test. McCaw has won 89 of his 99 previous Tests as captain.
Beauden Barrett has replaced Aaron Cruden at starting flyhalf, beating out two other top-class players competing for the No 10 jersey – Dan Carter, the world’s top Test point-scorer, and the versatile Colin Slade, who was named to the bench.
The All Blacks will boast an experienced starting forward pack, with hooker Dane Coles and props Wyatt Crockett and Owen Franks making up the front row while Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock return to the second row, with Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read joining McCaw in the back row.
Keven Mealamu says he isn’t done yet, not by a long shot.
As another round of hand wringing about the country’s lack of depth at hooker kicks off, Mealamu has reiterated his desire to be part of next year’s World Cup campaign.
Dane Coles’ looming absence from part, or all, of the All Blacks’ trip to Argentina and South Africa later this month for the birth of his partner’s child has again highlighted the dearth of options available to coach Steve Hansen.
Bay of Plenty’s Nathan Harris was the next cab off the rank, but after that it was anybody’s guess.
“We’ve been bringing people in and out of the environment,” Hansen said.
Keven Mealamu will become the first player to reach the remarkable milestone of 150 games for the Blues when he runs out to face the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday night.
The talismanic hooker has already racked up 160 Super Rugby appearances including his season with the Chiefs in 2000, but will play his 150th game for the Blues against the Red and Blacks.
The All Blacks centurion is only two matches away from equalling the record held by Nathan Sharpe for the most Super Rugby appearances (162), and is second only to Colin Meads in first class games after playing his 350th match against the Force on Saturday.
Blues captain Luke Braid suffered a shoulder injury during Friday’s match against the Waratahs and is likely to miss this Friday’s game against the Reds.
Brendon O’Connor will be first in line to replace Braid on the openside flank if the skipper doesn’t recover.
Veteran hooker Keven Mealamu will make his long-awaited return to Super Rugby against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday after battling back from another calf injury that sidelined him for more than a month.
The veteran Blues forward has battled calf injuries for the last three seasons and has played just once in 2014, as a second half replacement against the Crusaders on 28 February.
Blues hooker Keven Mealamu has been forced to return home early from South Africa with a calf injury that is likely to cause Steve Hansen some concern as the All Blacks coach finalises his planning for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The veteran forward has battled calf injuries for the last three seasons and sustained another strain to his left leg ahead of the Super Rugby match against the Bulls in Pretoria last week.
The Blues have named their team to play the Bulls on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld and have strengthened their front row with veterans Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock.
The All Black duo have been named in the starting team for the first time this season. After playing 30 minutes off the bench last week, the Blues and All Blacks centurions have been promoted to the starting XV and will form an all-All Black front row alongside Charlie Faumuina.
The Blues will be short on experience when they start their Super Rugby campaign later this month.
Veteran All Black hooker Keven Mealamu has re-signed with the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) and the Blues.
34-year-old Mealamu has so far played 105 Tests for the All Blacks and is New Zealand’s most-capped Super Rugby player with more than 150 games.
All Black coach Steven Hansen released 10 players from the national team to play for their national provincial championship teams in the next week.
Veteran hooker Keven Mealamu has become the latest player to opt for a ‘sabbatical’ during next year’s Super Rugby competition.
Hooker Keven Mealamu will become the third New Zealander to win 100 Test caps after being named in the All Blacks starting line up team for this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup test against Australiain Brisbane.
The Blues could be dealt a double blow this week as they have already lost flanker Luke Braid and might lose captain Keven Mealamu to injury.