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PREVIEW: Blues v Hurricanes

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Thursday, May 10, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: Blues v Hurricanes, Eden Park, Friday, May 11, 7.35pm

Played: 28
Won: Blues 14, Hurricanes 13, Draws 1
Last time: Blues 24-28 Hurricanes, April 15, 2017

FORM

The Blues go into the game on the back of yet another of their away wins, all three wins they have had this season have been away from Eden Park, over the Waratahs in Manly (24-21). They also beat the Lions (38-35) and the Sunwolves (24-10). Their losses have been 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). The Hurricanes lost their first game against the Bulls (19-21) but since then it has been wins all the way against the Jaguares (34-9), the Crusaders (29-19), the Highlanders (29-12), the Rebels (50-19), the Sharks (38-37), the Chiefs (25-13), the Sunwolves (43-15) and the Lions (28-19).

HOW CAN THEY DO IT?

That's the daunting question facing the Blues and the statistics bear out just how big a task confronts them. The Hurricanes are averaging 32.8 points per game to 24.9 to the Blues and scoring 4.6 tries per game as against 3.2. The Hurricanes have made 14.1 clean breaks per game compared to 11.7 for the Blues. The Hurricanes enjoy an 84 percent tackle percentage with the Blues on 81 while the Blues have conceded 15 turnovers on average per game and the Hurricanes 13.9. In turnovers won there is 0.2 between them. So where do the Blues come out on top? In carries 129.5/110.7, in defenders beaten 27.8/23.2, in offloads 13.1/10.9 and in scrum success 93/89. That's a lot of improving to be done across the board.

HURRICANES' DEPTH

It's a measure of their respective seasons that the Hurricanes have suffered comparatively lightly when put alongside the Blues. But what injuries they have had should be alleviated a little more in this contest with halfback TJ Perenara coming off the bench after recovering from a knee injury suffered against the Sharks in Napier. Fullback Jordie Barrett was withdrawn from the Lions game after rolling his ankle and he too will come off the bench. Another back on the bench after recovering is Blade Thomson while Ben May has recovered from illness and adds more experience off the bench. Rotation has seen Sam Lousi start at lock with Michael Fatialofa on the bench.

THE SCOOP
In spite of their points table woes, the Blues have had more time in possession, 17 minutes and 27 seconds per game, than any other side in the competition this year.

FAST FACT

Eden Park may trouble many teams but not the Hurricanes, they've won their last three games there in a sequence of five consecutive wins over the Blues. (Opta)

TEAMS:

Blues: 1.Ross Wright, 2.James Parsons, 3.Ofa Tuungafasi, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu, 5.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 6.Jerome Kaino, 7.Murphy Taramai, 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Augustine Pulu (captain), 10.Stephen Perofeta, 11.Caleb Clarke, 12.Sonny Bill Williams, 13.Orbyn Leger, 14.Rieko Ioane, 15.Matt Duffie.

Substitutes: 16.Matt Moulds, 17.Pauliasi Manu, 18.Sione Mafileo, 19.Ben Nee-Nee, 20.Kara Pryor, 21.Jonathan Ruru/Sam Nock, 22.Dan Kirkpatrick, 23.Melani Nanai.

Hurricanes: 1.Toby Smith, 2.Ricky Riccitelli, 3.Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 4.Vaea Fifita, 5.Sam Lousi, 6.Brad Shields (captain), 7.Ardie Savea, 8.Gareth Evans, 9.Finlay Christie, 10.Beauden Barrett, 11.Ben Lam, 12.Ngani Laumape, 13.Matt Proctor, 14.Julian Savea, 15.Nehe Milner-Skudder.

Substitutes: 16.James O'Reilly, 17.Chris Eves, 18.Ben May, 19.Michael Fatialofa, 20.Blade Thomson, 21.TJ Perenara, 22.Ihaia West, 23.Jordie Barrett.