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Preview: Blues v Hurricanes

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Saturday, May 31, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Saturday, May 31, 2014, 19:35pm (NZT)

Head to head: Played 22, Blues 13, Hurricanes 8, Drawn 1

Last time: Blues 20-39 Hurricanes (April 18, 2014)


Squad update: The home team will give playmaker Ihaia West his first start, with the confident ginger haired prodigy the latest in a long line of five-eighths used by the Blues in recent years. George Moala’s inclusion on the wing gives the back division even more power, while Jerome Kaino and other forwards will need to disrupt the Hurricanes ruck.

Andre Taylor may be missing but this is still a potent outfit with one of the best backlines in Super Rugby, while Beauden Barrett will play his 50th Super Rugby match. Up front there may have been some doubt over the makeup of the forwards due to injury, but it will be the likes of Victor Vito and Jack Lam that will produce the ball for the men out wide.

Form: The Blues have lost their last two matches, and for a side that hasn’t won more than two in a row in 2014, claiming their final four will be a big task. The double against the Waratahs and Reds have faded with back-to-back losses to the Chiefs and Sharks.

The Hurricanes, coming off the most impressive victory against the Chiefs in over five years, have one of the great attacking arsenals in the competition, with the best numbers in offence. With four wins in their last seven visits to Auckland, history as well as form will have the sixth placed team confident of holding onto their spot.

Key Players: Ma’a Nonu will need to have a big game against his old team-mates including Test partner Conrad Smith, while the front row of Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock will need to rule the set piece if the Blues are to keep their faint hopes alive.

The Hurricanes will look to Alapati Leuia, whose return to the starting team last week resulted in the Wellington based outfits attack going to another level. The running threat of Julian Savea will be a constant source of concern for the Blues while TJ Perenara will want to continue his growing form.

Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 George Moala, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Luke Braid (c), 6 Peter Saili, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock

Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Steven Luatua, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Albert Nikoro

Hurricanes: 15 Matt Proctor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.

Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Brendon Edmonds, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Tim Bateman, 23 James Marshall.