Australian record puts extra weight on Blues

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Thursday, May 3, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Head coach Tana Umaga said it was impossible to get away from that pressure and it was a great learning experience in terms of being in a pressure situation every day.

"But this one's probably a national one. Everyone, with our relationship with Australia and that past so we're under no illusions around what it means for the country yet we've got to control what we can control and that's out here on the training paddock and making sure we get everything right here before we get over there and play," he said.

Umaga said rookie wing Caleb Clarke deserved his start, he had trained well and had come back strongly from the appendix operation that denied him the chance to play in the Commonwealth Games Sevens gold medal success.

"He trained the house down, and got in really good nick and to miss an opportunity like the Commonwealth Games was tough. He's come back from that very well, he played club rugby at the weekend. We really wanted him to get some rugby under his belt and now he's back but he's got the opportunity and he's earned that," he said.

Umaga said to expect Clarke to show plenty of energy and some excitement. They were looking for him to play as he had coming through the grades which had earned him the right to start but he was also looking for him to play within the structures the Blues have.

"He can't wait to get out there. He's been pushing us really hard. It's not easy sometimes when you've got a young man like Caleb. You worry a little around age but he's put all those fears aside because of the way he's trained and how he's handled himself in the contact area and how he does his core skills," he said.

With the side under so much pressure, Umaga said he handled the situation as a result of his exposure in previous roles he has had as a coach and a player.

His support networks were the same as he had then, and it was a case of understanding what you could control and focusing everything on that.

Frustration did come about and everyone wished things could be different but it was a case of understanding and keeping faith with your processes and what you believed in and keeping strong.

There were concerns about the state of Brookvale Oval where the game was being played and they had enquired of both the Waratahs and Sanzaar and had received reassurances around that.

After the frustrations with the non-application of the game plan in the second half against the Jaguares last weekend, Umaga said his message to first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta was to trust himself because that was one of the first things that went out the window with young players.

"It's trusting the processes that you have put in place and those people around him, trust them to help you as well. That's something these guys are learning because they are all trying to take it upon themselves because they want it so much.

"They know how much it means, and they know how much it means to the club and to the team and how much they want to do the best they can and yet they can get a bit individual on that," he said.

Having Jerome Kaino, Augustine Pulu and Patrick Tuipulotu back from injuries would be important to that. They had been frustrated that they hadn't been able to contribute and they had been leading the side since coming back in on Monday.