Preview: Hurricanes v Blues

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Thursday, March 12, 2015    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Friday 13 March at 7.35pm (NZDT)
FMG Stadium, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Played: 23, 1996-2014
Hurricanes wins: 8
Blues wins: 14
Draws: 1

Hurricanes points: 548
Blues points: 663

Last match: 
Blues 37 Hurricanes 24
31.05.14 in Auckland

Squad update: Chris Boyd has decided that a rested forward pack is in no need of change, they have been in remarkable touch on foreign soil early, while Jeremy Thrush could make his return off the bench.

The backline has been changed to the tune of four, with Nehe Milner-Skudder, Matt Proctor, Conrad Smith and TJ Perenara coming into the run on side.

Even with the changes the Hurricanes starting XV features eight past or present All Blacks.

The Blues, like their counterparts, welcome back Test representatives, naming five players who have worn the Black jersey in their forward contingent, although blindside flanker Jerome Kaino has been ruled out after failing concussion tests.

Steven Luatua shifts back to number eight, while Luke Braid assumes the captaincy and the number six jersey, while Brendon O’Connor will take position at openside.

Jimmy Cowan and Jamison Gibson-Park have been bracketed at nine, but otherwise the back division is unaltered, while on the pine, All Blacks Sevens sensation Akira Ioane will be lurking.

Form: This fixture holds historical relevance for the Hurricanes, for victory will give them a 4-0 ledger, never in Investec Super Rugby have they boasted such a start.

Palmerston North is a mixed hunting ground, with the home team winning five from ten at FMG, while the ‘Canes have only won 8 from 23 against the Blues – and just one from their last four.

Yet the Wellington based side, the best defensive operation by tackle completion and boasting an aggregate winning margin over 20 points (again the best in Investec Super Rugby) are playing at home for the first time

A bumper crowd is expected in ‘Palmy’ to watch a tight knit group that looks the goods early.

The Blues are in crisis if you were to believe the media, but despite a zero in the win column, the attacking nature of the three-time champions cannot be denied.

The bottom of the table side has collected three losing bonus points from four games, while only the Chiefs and Waratahs boast better attacking numbers via the stats charts overall.

An ‘upset’ win against the form Hurricanes would provide some relief for the Blues.

Key players: The return of All Blacks centre Smith is noteworthy, the tourists will throw the kitchen sink at the ‘Canes so the defensive intelligence of Conrad will be required.

Perenara will add a little more fire to the home outfit’s movement from the ruck, while Ma’a Nonu, imperious with his physical approach so far in 2015, will want to muscle up against a dangerous Blues rear guard.

Up front the Hurricanes pack has been sensational, subduing the Lions and Bulls on their home turf before putting in some impressive moments against a highly rated Force forward unit.

The Blues will look for their heralded front row to hold court, but despite the presence of so much class, there hasn’t been too many concerns when considering the pack’s performance.

The backline on paper looks so fine, but they haven’t been able to mount the five pointers despite recording attacking digits that rate the side alongside the best offences in Super Rugby.

Ihaia West is a talent but is still to suffocate the life out of a match, while Francis Saili, Charles Piutau, Frank Halai and Lolagi Visinia possess enough x-factor to cause issues, but they haven't controlled the try scoring stakes like they could.

Against a set of backs as potent as the Hurricanes, they will be put under examination.