AUCKLAND - Sir John Kirwan has warned his young Blues team to expect near Test match intensity when they host the Crusaders in a Super rugby clash in Auckland on Friday night.
Kirwan has retained the same squad of 22 that produced a 34-20 first-round upset over the Hurricanes last Friday.
The former All Blacks winger says there remains a special provincial rivalry between Auckland, whom he represented in his playing days, and Canterbury.
"This is just under a Test match," he said on Wednesday.
"Blues versus Crusaders is the game of the season, so you have to be ready for it. For us, it's like a derby."
Kirwan, who spent 10 years in Italy and whose wife is Italian, said he used the example of two great soccer clubs in that country, Inter Milan and AC Milan, to explain the rivalry to his son.
"I said 'Boy, it's Inter and Milan'," he said. "He got that."
Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, George Moala, Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams (capt), Culum Retallick, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Tom McCartney. Res: Quentin MacDonald, Angus Ta'avao, Liaki Moli, Brendon O'Connor, Bryn Hall, Baden Kerr, Jackson Willison.