Barrett at the back for the Blues

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Beauden Barrett will make his debut for the Blues at fullback against his former side on Sunday.

Beauden Barrett and Otere Black talk tactics at Blues training.

Beauden Barrett, left, and Otere Black will combine for the Blues against the Hurricanes Photo: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport

Blues coach Leon MacDonald said selecting his side for the opening game of Super Rugby Aotearoa against the Hurricanes was the hardest selection decision he had made in his time with the Blues.

Otere Black retains the first five-eigth spot after impressing MacDonald earlier in the season.

“His form was outstanding pre-lockdown and he’s come back out of lockdown in even better nick and he’s trained really well,” MacDonald said.

“We’re pretty fortunate really to have two pretty decent 10s in the squad. Beaudy is an outstanding first-five that is not lost on us, but he is also a world class fullback as well at the moment and we need that hole filled.

“It’s his first game for the Blues in front of a big crowd against his home team and I don’t think it will hurt for him to just be back in the boot a little bit with his vision and his experience to help be a calming influence at the back and in time move up to the front line as well.”

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Who to put in the playmaker jersey was not MacDonald’s only selection dilemma for Sunday’s game at Eden Park.

The loose forward trio was one of the most competitive selections with Tom Robinson, Blake Gibson and early season standout Hoskins Sotutu given the start, meaning All Black Dalton Papalii will come off the bench.

Upfront prop Alex Hodgman and lock Josh Goodhue are both fully fit and return to the starting pack that includes All Blacks Ofa Tu’ungafasi and captain Patrick Tuipulotu with James Parsons at hooker.

In the backline Tj Faiane and All Black Reiko Ioane are back together in the midfield and Caleb Clarke returns from the New Zealand Sevens to slot in on the left wing to form a potent back three with Mark Telea and Barrett.

Despite all the talent, Ioane would not be drawn on whether the Auckland side had the best backline in the competition.

As expected new Blues signing Dan Carter is not in the game-day 23 as he works towards match fitness.

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“Our good form from earlier in this year is a bit irrelevant now,” MacDonald

“This is going to be a monumental 10 weeks of local derby battles which will be a battle of attrition, so we will need our whole squad if we are to realise our goals.”

A potential full-house is expected to be reached ahead of Sunday afternoon’s game.

The Blues squad to face the Hurricanes:

1 Alex Hodgman

2 James Parsons

3 Ofa Tuungafasi

4 Patrick Tuipulotu (c)

5 Josh Goodhue

6 Tom Robinson

7 Blake Gibson

8 Hoskins Sotutu

9 Sam Nock

10 Otere Black

11 Caleb Clarke

12 Tj Faiane

13 Reiko Ioane

14 Mark Telea

15 Beauden Barrett

Reserves

16 Kurt Eklund

17 Ezekiel Lindenmuth

18 Marcel Renata

19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti

20 Dalton Papalii

21 Finlay Christie

22 Harry Plummer

23 Matt Duffie

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