If ever there was a sign of the ACT Brumbies' mindset heading into Saturday's Super Rugby Pacific semi-final, it was clearly outlined when coach Dan McKellar unveiled his team on Wednesday afternoon.
As expected, Rob Valetini returns to the starting side after missing the past four weeks with a hamstring injury.
But surprisingly, the powerful forward has not slotted straight into the No. 6 jumper. Instead he will wear the eight on his back as part of a revamped backrow.
Tom Hooper retains the starting breakaway flanker role after impressing throughout the past month.
Pete Samu shifts to openside flanker, completing a monster backrow the Brumbies hope will outmuscle a sizeable Blues pack. Luke Reimer drops back to the bench.
After a month on the sidelines, Valetini is sure to burst out of the blocks and McKellar is confident the Wallaby will make an immediate impact.
"His presence in the dressing sheds gives the group a real lift," McKellar said. "He's refreshed, energised and ready to go.
"He knows to go out there and play his role and give us go forward and be nice and physical on both sides of the ball."
McKellar's only other change is the selection of Ollie Sapsford at outside centre in place of suspended Len Ikitau, with Hudson Creighton added to the bench.
Valetini's return has the potential to swing the contest in the Brumbies' favour, the 113 kilogram forward missing the clash with the Blues last month.
It was a match ACT lost by just two and came in the midst of a three-game losing streak. Valetini was absent for all three matches, along with last week's quarter-final win over the Hurricanes.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the forward's return is halfback Nic White, the veteran excited by the prospect of playing behind a dominant pack.
"It's a big team isn't it, a big pack," White said. "Those boys will hopefully give us a good platform.
"We know it's going to be hugely won around that gain line, it's the way the Blues play over there. I've played at Eden Park a number of times now at night, it'll be slippery, it'll be dewy, it will be a game all about the collision area.
"To have a backrow as big as what we've got and as skillful as what we've got, it's certainly an edge, so it's good to play behind them."
The selection of Samu at openside flanker has the potential to leave the Brumbies exposed at the ruck.
McKellar, however, is not concerned, the 30-year-old having filled that role for the Wallabies in the past.
"He's played there in the past, played there for us and the Wallabies," McKellar said. "We don't see a whole lot of opportunity in that first 50 minutes around the poach, they're pretty good in their breakdown.
"He's a very good link player, Pete. His role won't change a whole lot, bar the lineout."
At 21 years old and in just his second season of Super Rugby, Hooper is preparing for the biggest game of his career.
There is no bigger task than a trip to Eden Park to face the Blues in a semi-final.
Hooper stood tall during last week's quarter-final and McKellar expects his young flanker to again thrive on Saturday night.
"He's pretty much demanded selection through his performance, which he should be really proud of," McKellar said. "Last week was the biggest game of his career, now this one's the biggest game of his career. It's the biggest one for a lot of our careers.
"It's a good time of year and we're excited to travel well, get over to Auckland and embrace it all."
Auckland Blues v ACT Brumbies - Saturday at Eden Park, 5.05pm
Brumbies team: 1. James Slipper, 2. Folau Fainga'a, 3. Allan Alaalatoa (C), 4. Darcy Swain, 5. Cadeyrn Neville, 6. Tom Hooper, 7. Pete Samu, 8. Rob Valetini, 9. Nic White, 10. Noah Lolesio, 11. Andy Muirhead, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Ollie Sapsford, 14. Tom Wright, 15. Tom Banks. Reserves: 16. Lachlan Lonergan, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Sefo Kautai, 19. Nick Frost, 20. Luke Reimer, 21. Jahrome Brown, 22. Ryan Lonergan 23. Hudson Creighton.
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