Umaga has confidence in exciting Tens squad

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Lynn McConnell     07 Feb 2018     Getty Images

Former Blues five-eighths Carlos Spencer is among the 22-strong side although how much game time he gets is still to be decided.

But All Blacks Akira Ioane and George Moala head the side to be captained by Jimmy Tupou and which includes All Blacks Sevens player Caleb Clarke, the dangerous runner Melani Nanai and outstanding North Harbour loose forward Murphy Taramai.

Fifteen players were not considered due to injury but Umaga believed his side would be competitive.

"We want to give a good account of ourselves and those who are going get their opportunity, they get to play some games and those who stay don't. We want to be as successful as we can," he said.

Umaga said Spencer looked in good condition and had tested well at training on Monday.

"He's looking good and it's good to have him in there, he's a legend of our club," he said.

It was priceless to have someone of Spencer's pedigree and experience around among young players and he was relaxed about talking quietly with players and passing on information.

Umaga said he had no expectations of what contribution Spencer might make during the Tens and would be playing it by ear.

"When he wants to go on we'll bring him on and when he wants to come off we'll bring him off and we'll see how long that lasts," he said.

It will be Umaga's first experience of the tournament and he was looking forward to it and was pleased that the lessons from the inaugural event last year meant games would be played on a day-night schedule this year.

Umaga felt Ioane, Nanai and Moala were the sorts of players who could make an impact in the tournament.

"We don't want to put too much pressure on Aki [Ioane]. We know what he is able to do and we know his potential and we've been very happy with the way he's come back and building towards our season," he said.

But what sort of threat he might pose in the Tens would just have to be a case of wait and see.

"Our focus really is on him in 15s. I think it's [the Tens] a good stepping stone to project himself into our thinking for the start of the season," he said.

One aspect that will have Umaga on edge, two weeks out from the start of Investec Super Rugby will be the injury situation.

In their first pre-season game last week the Blues had been unable to field any of their three contracted hookers due to injury while they lost first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta with a broken hand during the game. That had provided unexpected chances for non-contracted players from within the region to come in and show what they could offer.

Umaga said several of the players who couldn't be considered where on the return and he was hopeful that with everything going well they would be close to having their original squad available for selection by the start of Super Rugby.

Injuries were something that couldn't be controlled and if they happened, they happened, he said.

The Blues squad is: Calen Clarke, Kurt Ecklund, Jordan Hyland, Akira Ioane, Antonio Kirikiri, Orbyn Leger, George Moala, Melani Nanai, Sam Nock, Jordan Olsen, Dalton Papali'i, Jacob Pierce, Marcel Renata, Jonathan Ruru, Hoskins Sotutu, Carlos Spencer, Michael Tamoaeita, Murphy Taramai, Tanielu Telez, Jordan Trainor, Tamati Tua, Jimmy Tupou (captain).