Pressure on already in Blues selection

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Naming an unchanged starting XV to play the Chiefs on Friday, from that which beat the Rebels in Melbourne on Thursday last week, coach Tana Umaga said there had been a plan to use Rieko Ioane on the wing in the preparations for the season, however, delayed recoveries from George Moala and Rene Ranger meant he got the first opportunity to play at centre. And a hat-trick of tries resulted.


"As we have talked about, if you get opportunities it is up to you what you do with it and he's taken his with two hands. He wants to be a centre so he's put the pressure on them and us as a coaching group to select him.

"And when they're playing well we've just go to go with those who are doing what we are asking them to do," he said. "Now it's on the others to match that or be better."

Umaga said the standard had been set in Melbourne and the All Blacks would have to bring the same level of attitude when they came into the game from the bench.

"It goes without saying how intense these games are if you gain anything from last year and you look at that first game between the Chiefs and the Highlanders at the weekend, they're pretty brutal, so nothing has changed.

"Although we got a good win I think it was rusty from both sides between us and the Rebels. They exposed a few things on us so we've got to make sure we fix those going into this weekend otherwise the Chiefs' outfit are very good at exploiting holes in counter-attack, turnovers and things like that."
Settling down early in the game would be a priority as they had been a little nervy in the first game, he said.

Getting connections around counter-attack and turnovers which was the toughest time to defend and they needed to make those little adjustments for themselves.

While achieving some scrum dominance in their pre-season game, Umaga was taking nothing from that. The Chiefs would have identified problems and worked on them and they were back at home so it would be a different side they came up against.

He said Otago back and former New Zealand Under-20 player Michael Collins, who has been retained at fullback for the weekend, had been one of the last players signed for the side, and it had been as a utility option. He was another example of a player grasping his opportunity with two hands and setting the pace for other possible fullback contenders.

"He's done everything we've asked, he's brought another dimension for us from the back and his calmness and organisation and he's really fitted in up here as well. I think he's enjoying it," Umaga said.