PREVIEW: Blues v Force
Thursday, May 19, 2016 allblacks.com Getty Images
ROUND 13: Force v Blues, Saturday 21 May, 9.45pm (NZT), Perth
TALE OF THE TAPE
Although both teams sit at the bottom of their respective conferences, the Blues have been far more competitive this season with five wins compared to two by the Force. The Blues will be motivated by the slimmest of play-off hopes. If they can pick up a bonus point win in Perth, they will move up to 30 points and close the gap on the fourth placed Hurricanes. The head-to-head record will give the Blues hope with seven wins out nine clashes with the Force.
After missing the mauling at the hands of the Lions last week, Josh Bekhuis returns from a calf strain to boost the Blues pack. The Blues struggled at line out time against the Lions and will welcome the return of the 100 game veteran and set piece specialist. With Patrick Tuipulotu providing the power and Bekhuis the graft, the Blues locking combination complement each other perfectly.
After dismantling the Sunwolves in Tokyo before a bye last week, Force coach Michael Foley says his team has found the formula for success: “In Tokyo, we played the type of rugby we’ve been working towards. The biggest difference came as a result of us focusing on enjoying the game and attacking every contest without fear.” Foley said.
Blues coach Tana Umaga has tinkered with a backline that struggled to make any impact against the Lions last week. Live wire half back Billy Guyton replaces Bryn Hall for his second start of the season while former Melbourne Storm NRL star Matt Duffie comes onto the right wing. The electric Melani Nanai shifts from wing to fullback in place of Lolagi Visinia. With George Moala and Tevita Li remaining at centre and left wing respectively, there is plenty of firepower on hand for the Blues.
Blues: 15: Melani Nanai 14: Matt Duffie 13: George Moala 12: Piers Francis 11: Tevita Li 10: Ihaia West 9: Billy Guyton 8: Jerome Kaino 7: Taneru Latimer 6: Steven Luatua 5: Patrick Tuipulotu 4: Josh Bekhuis 3: Charlie Faumuina 2: James Parsons (C) 1: Sam Prattley
Reserves: Quentin McDonald, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Sione Mafileo, Hoani Matenga, Kara Pryor, Bryn Hall, Matt McGahan, Male Sa’u
Force: 15: Dane Haylett-Petty 14: Marcel Brache 13: Ben Tapuai 12: Kyle Godwin 11: Luke Morahan 10: Ian Prior 9: Alby Mathewson 8: Ben McCalman 7: Matt Hodgson 6: Brynard Stander 5: Adam Coleman 4: Ross Haylett-Petty 3: Guy Millar 2: Harry Scoble 1: Francois Van Wyk
Reserves: 16: Anaru Rangi 17: Pek Cowan 18: Tetera Faulkner 19: Rory Walton 20: Angus Cottrell 21: Ryan Louwrens 22: Luke Burton 23: Semi Masirewa