PREVIEW: Blues v Hurricanes
Wednesday, March 9, 2016 allblacks.com Getty Images
TALE OF THE TAPE
Eden Park has been a happy hunting ground for the Hurricanes with five wins out of their last nine visits to the Blue’s territory. However, the overall Super Rugby record favours the Blues with 14 wins to the Hurricanes 10. To overcome the Hurricanes, The Blues will need to snap out of a slump which has seen them win just one match out of their last 12 against New Zealand opponents.
QUICK TAP: UMAGA RINGS THE CHANGES
HURRICANES FAVOURITE SON
With a Hurricanes playing-career spanning 11 years and 122 caps, Blues coach Tana Umaga is now plotting the downfall of his former side. The Hurricanes legend has made an immediate impact in his first year as head coach of the Blues. A successful pre-season campaign was followed by a stunning round one win over the Highlanders. The dread-locked coach will want to turn Eden Park into a graveyard for visiting teams and will not take it easy on his former side.
ROTATION, ROTATION, ROTATION
For the second week in a row, the Blues have made a large number of changes to their starting fifteen. The team to take on the Hurricanes features seven changes and two positional tweaks to the team that lost 28-13 to the Crusaders last week. The biggest talking points are the elevation of All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina and Sevens star Akira Ioane to the starting line-up. In the backline, Rene Ranger moves from centre to the wing with Japan international Male Sa’u coming into the mid-field.
RANGER DANGER vs THE BUS
In one of the most anticipated head-to-head clashes of the round, former All Blacks star Rene Ranger takes on incumbent All Blacks wing Julian Savea. Both players have the ability to bust the game wide open with explosive speed, power and x-factor. Savea will be looking to rediscover the form that took him to the top of the Rugby World Cup try-scoring charts while Ranger will be motivated by the challenge of marking ‘The Bus’.
The Hurricanes have injury concerns around big name players Nehe Milner-Skudder, Cory Jane and Dane Coles. The injury niggles to Jane and Milner-Skudder meant the Hurricanes had to wait until Thursday to name their final line up. Captain Dane Coles wasn't so lucky and was ruled out with Leni Apisai taking the number two jersey.
BLUES: 15: Lolagi Visinia 14: Rene Ranger 13: Male Sa’u 12: George Moala 11: Tevita Li 10: Ihaia West 9: Bryn Hall 8: Akira Ioane 7: Blake Gibson 6: Jerome Kaino (C) 5: Josh Bekhuis 4: Steven Luatua 3: Charlie Faumuina 2: James Parsons 1: Ofa Tu’ungafasi
Reserves: Quentin McDonald, Nic Mayhew, Sione Mafileo, Patrick Tuipulotu, Kara Pryor, Billy Guyton, Matt McGahan, Melani Nanai
HURRICANES: 15 James Marshall 14: Nehe Milner-Skudder 13: Vince Aso 12: Ngani Laumape 11: Julian Savea 10: Beauden Barrett 9: TJ Perenara 8: Victor Vito 7: Ardie Savea 6: Brad Shields 5: Mark Abbott 4: Blade Thomson 3: Jeff Toomaga-Allen 2: Leni Apisai 1: Reggie Goodes
Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Eves, Loni Uhila, Vaea Fifita, Callum Gibbins, Jamison Gibson-Park, Willis Halaholo, Cory Jane
The Blues last home-match was a thriller, and this clash should be just as exciting. Click HERE to get tickets and experience the action!
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