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Blues bring in tall timber

Fotopress

Thursday, February 24, 2005    NZPA    Fotopress

Rawlinson is a hardworking, grafting lock, whose lineout ability should complement Ali Williams and make the Highlanders think more about any territorial kicking tactics at Carisbrook on Friday.

"They need to know we have the ability at the lineout," Blues coach Peter Sloane said.

"We know we are going to be in for a heck of a contest in the set pieces and we thought this gave us a few more options."

The South African-born Rawlinson won over former All Black Bradley Mika to partner Williams in the second row.

Mika is more of a ball-playing athlete while Rawlinson has a reputation for his power, work ethic and set piece expertise.

The Blues were exposed in the lineout in their final trial game against the Waratahs, although they chose not to show any variations with the swag of Super 12 coaches watching.

"We have seen some big gains with Greg, he has got that extra height and we know the Highlanders have not got the tallest lineout," Sloane said.

"They do have a very good scrum though and there will be some fierce pressure everywhere on us in the tight five."

The Carl Hoeft, Anton Oliver, Carl Hayman front row for the Highlanders will sense some advantage even against All Blacks Saimone Taumoepeau - who makes his Super 12 debut and Keven Mealamu with young John Afoa at tighthead for the Blues.

Two years ago when the Blues won the Super 12, their only defeat was against the Highlanders in Dunedin when they were out-muscled up front.

"That's a hard place to go and when Anton Oliver is playing his 100th (Super 12 game) and Gordy Hunter's trophy is up it doesn't make it any easier. But that's the way we like it and if we are good enough we will do the job," Sloane said.

"All our backs need front foot ball and if we get that those boys will operate but if they don't... "

First five-eighths Carlos Spencer confirmed his recovery from his foot problem and utility youngster Luke McAlister will play at centre, with Ben Atiga troubled by a hamstring strain.

"This has not been an easy week and a half for Carlos and there still may be problems.

"He was in a lot of pain for a while but we just hope that is all about how hard he has pushed himself rather than anything else."

Blues: Mils Muliaina, Isa Nacewa, Luke McAlister, Sam Tuitupou, Joe Rokocoko, Carlos Spencer, David Gibson, Xavier Rush (captain), Daniel Braid, Angus MacDonald, Ali Williams, Greg Rawlinson, John Afoa, Keven Mealamu, Saimone Taumoepeau: Reserves: Rudi Wulf, Tasesa Lavea, Steve Devine, Nick Williams, Justin Collins, Taufa'ao Filise, Derren Witcombe.