PREVIEW: Waratahs v Blues

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Thursday, May 3, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: Waratahs v Blues, Brookvale Oval, Manly, Saturday 9.45pm

Played: 22
Won: Waratahs 8, Blues 14
Last time: Waratahs 33-40 Blues, May 6, 2017, Sydney.

The Waratahs' run of form which had netted four consecutive wins came to an end against the Lions who beat them 29-0 in their last game. Their only other loss was away to the Jagures (28-38). Wins this year have been over the Stormers (34-27), the Rebels (51-27), the Brumbies (24-17) and the Sunwolves (50-29). They also drew with the Sharks (24-24). The Blues have managed only two wins, both away from home, against the Lions (38-35) and the Sunwolves (24-10) while they have lost to the Highlanders (34-41a, 16-34h), the Chiefs (21-27h, 19-21a), the Stormers 20-37, the Sharks (40-63) and the Jaguares (13-20).

There can be no arguing with the efforts the Ioane brothers have made for the Blues this years. Rieko (720) and Akira (710) are the only members of the squad to have played more than 600 minutes. In fact, the next highest is Matt Duffie with 565 minutes. But they've also been making their mark on the points table with Akira having seven tries (equal second on the tournament list) and Rieko four. Bryn Gatland, Duffie, Jordan Hyland, Michael Collins and Tumua Manu have each scored two tries of the 30 the Blues have posted this year.

Former All Blacks and now Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson knows what the Blues and Tana Umaga have been going through. His side has been criticised for under-performing in recent seasons and pointed to their situation. "Look at us, we're coming off a belting 29-0. We're still working out how that happened, learning the lessons from that and still seething from it. We want to make sure we respond well and we'll get that opportunity this week. Everyone's got their challenges, the Blues are going through theirs," he said.

Possession from set-pieces and the breakdown favours the Blues on the statistical front. Their scrum success is 93 percent compared to 86 percent for the Waratahs while the Blues are just in front in lineouts 87/86 while at the rucks the Blues lead 96/94.

The Blues are unbeaten in their last five games in Australia and five of their last seven against the Waratahs, including their last two. (Opta)

1.Tom Robertson, 2.Damien Fitzpatrick, 3.Sekope Kepu, 4.Ned Hanigan, 5.Rob Simmons, 6.Will Miller, 7.Michael Hooper (captain), 8.Michael Wells, 9.Jake Gordon, 10.Bernard Foley, 11.Taqele Naiyaravoro, 12.Kurtley Beale, 13.Lalakai Foketi, 14.Cam Clark, 15.Israel Folau.

Substitutes: 16.Hugh Roach, 17.Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18.Paddy Ryan, 19.Tom Staniforth, 20.Jed Holloway, 21.Nick Phipps, 22.Curtis Rona, 23.Bryce Hegarty.

Blues: 1.Ross Wright, 2.James Parson, 3.Sione Mafileo, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu, 5.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 6.Jerome Kaino, 7.Dalton Papalii, 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Augustine Pulu, 10.Stephen Perofeta, 11.Caleb Clarke, 12.Rieko Ioane, 13.Orbyn Leger, 14.Tumua Manu, 15.Matt Duffie.

Substitutes: 16.Matt Moulds, 17.Pauliasi Manu, 18.Mike Tamoaieta, 19.Ben Nee-Nee/Lyndon Dunshea, 20.Murphy Taramai, 21.Jonathan Ruru, 22.Dan Kirkpatrick, 23.Terrence Hepetema.