Preview: Blues v Brumbies
Wednesday, April 8, 2015 James Mortimer Getty Images
Eden Park, Auckland
Played: 20, 1996-2014 (DNP 2011)
Blues wins: 11
Brumbies wins: 9
Blues points: 477
Brumbies points: 477
Last match: Brumbies 26 Blues 9, 04.04.14 in Canberra
All teams for round 9: http://bit.ly/1a4RR67
Form: The Blues struggles have become more frustrating with the fact that they are able to match most teams across the board, their season statistics back this up, but that fine line between scoring tries and winning is unable to be crossed by Sir John Kirwan’s men.
Five times in seven games the Auckland based franchise has collected a losing bonus point while they have not been beaten by more than 11 points, but these facts are small consolation for the three-time champions – currently bottom of the log.
They have pushed some good sides close, but the ACT based outfit have won four of their last six against the Blues stretching back to 2008.
The Brumbies will be annoyed with their two losses, a 17-19 loss to the Chiefs in New Plymouth and catching a pushy and physical Waratahs at home, reversed 13-28.
While the Rebels, Reds (twice), Force and Cheetahs have yielded five victories for the 2013 runners-up, this is their first match against a side with firepower that will be loose and desperate in the confines of their own backyard and one of world rugby’s citadels.
Squad update: Sir John Kirwan has made four changes to his starting team, including the interesting selection of naming Luke Braid at blindside flanker.
Replacing recently re-signed Steven Luatua, Braid’s inclusion gives the hosts more speed around the close quarter exchanges, while elsewhere in the pack James Parsons and Pat Tuipulotu come into the side at the expense of Keven Mealamu and Hayden Triggs.
Melani Nanai is the only change out wide, replacing Tevita Li on the left wing.
Brumbies head coach Stephen Larkham has named an unchanged starting team.
Key players: The Blues will look to their pack to set the main platform, with Kirwan’s decision to field twin open sides will give them the ability to match a strong looking touring back row led by David Pocock.
Dan Bowden will want to steer the ship, as the number ten has been something of a poisoned chalice for the Auckland based outfit, while George Moala and Pita Ahki form a midfield that will be up against potent opposition.
Stephen Moore and Ben Alexander have been prominent this year, while Scott Fardy’s combination with Pocock will be interesting, the two offer differing profiles when it comes to ruck play.
Matt Toomua and Henry Speight will plan to physically dominate smaller members of the Blues backline while Christian Lealiifano has been one of the form first five-eighths on display and will hope to translate his form to New Zealand soil.
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