Blues name new midfield

English-born back Piers Francis will make his first Super Rugby appearance when the Blues host the Jaguares at North Harbour on Saturday.

The 25-year-old, sidelined with a foot injury since pre-season, will start at inside centre alongside Rene Ranger, who makes his return.

Francis played for Saracens for four years before moving to Auckland and then to Waikato and the Chiefs Wider Training Group. He then returned to the UK to play for Edinburgh and Doncaster, before flying south again last year to play for Counties Manukau and is renowned as an excellent defender and one of the fittest in the team.

The rest of the backline are the same players who travelled to the Reds last week.

Up front James Parsons assumes the captaincy in the absence of the injured Jerome Kaino, with North Harbour prop Nick Mayhew given his first start to bolster up a scrum that will be tested against the Jaguares.

Joe Edwards starts in the place of Kaino on the side of the scrum with Akira Ioane to provide thrust off the bench.

After starting in each of the first four games, prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi and midfielder George Moala will come off the bench.

Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Rieko Ioane, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Joe Edwards, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Nic Mayhew
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Hoani Matenga, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Matt McGahan, 23 George Moala

Date: Saturday, April 3
Venue: QBE Stadium, North Harbour
Kick-off: 19:35 local (06:35 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Referees: Ben O'Keeffe, Angus Mabey
TMO: Ben Skeen