Blues v Highlanders
Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday 5.35pm (AEST)
Last meeting: Round 9 2012 - Highlanders 30 bt Blues 27 at Forsyth Barr Stadium
Head-to-head: Played 19 Blues 13 Highlanders 6
In Auckland: Played 8 Blues 7 Highlanders 1
Referee: Glen Jackson (NZL)
TV: Live, FoxSports 3
TAB Sportsbet: Blues $2.25 Highlanders $1.60
Greg Growden writes: New Zealanders are saying the Australian conference is weak. At least we haven't got a mob of complete duds as the Blues, who despite a bevy of All Blacks, have been atrocious. The Highlanders by plenty, even though the Blues are 'resting' several duds.
AAP writes: Besieged Blues coach Pat Lam has wielded the axe after the Auckland side's embarrassing 47-point drubbing by the Crusaders. Among a raft of changes is the demotion of All Blacks Ma'a Nonu, Piri Weepu and Ali Williams to the bench. With just two wins this season, Lam will certainly be looking for a new job next year. His side still have enough talent to upset the Highlanders who have bagged just one win at Eden Park since 1996. But it's hard to see a complete turnaround in their diabolical organisation and defence. The Highlanders come off a crucial 16-11 win over the Bulls and should again dominate possession and be too strong up front.
BLUES: Hadleigh Parkes, David Raikuna, Francis Saili, Michael Hobbs, Sherwin Stowers, Gareth Anscombe, Alby Mathewson, Peter Saili/Luke Braid (c), Luke Braid/Daniel Braid, Steven Luatua, Filo Paulo, Liaki Moli, Tevita Mailau, James Parsons, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Tom McCartney, Angus Ta'avao, Ali Williams, Daniel Braid / Peter Saili / Danny Pryor, Piri Weepu, Ma'a Nonu, Lachie Munro.
HIGHLANDERS: Ben Smith, Kurt Baker, Tamati Ellison, Phil Burleigh, Hosea Gear, Chris Noakes, Jimmy Cowan, Nick Crosswell, Tim Boys, Adam Thomson, Hoani MacDonald, Jarrad Hoeata, Maafu Fia, Andrew Hore, Jamie Mackintosh (captain). Reserves: Jason Rutledge, Bronson Murray, Josh Bekhuis, Scott Fuglistaller, Aaron Smith, Mike Delany, Kenny Lynn.