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PREVIEW: Hurricanes v Blues

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Thursday, July 5, 2018    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match details: Hurricanes v Blues, 7.35pm, Saturday 7 July, Westpac Stadium, Wellington. TICKETS.

Played: 29
Won: Hurricanes 14, Blues 14
Drawn: 1
Last time: Hurricanes 36, Blues 15 (11 May 2018)

FORM
The Hurricanes are in the midst of an inexplicable form slump. After going on an unbeaten 10-match rampage, the Hurricanes have dropped their last three games. But it’s the manner of defeat that will concern Coach Chris Boyd the most. The Hurricanes have failed to score more than 15 points in any of the three losses with their normal scintillating attack going MIA. It’s been a tough season for the Blues, but they will be buoyed by last week’s 39-16 win over the Reds – their first win at Eden Park for 12 months. 



CH, CH, CHANGES
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has rung the changes with 14 positional or personnel changes to the side that fell 24-12 to the Brumbies in Canberra last week. The return of internationals Beauden Barrett, Vaea Fifita and Brad Shields will provide a huge boost while the biggest talking point comes out wide. Ben Lam has been dropped from the starting line up with Julian Savea shifting to the left wing and Nehe Milner Skudder taking the 14 jersey. Jordie Barrett moves to fullback with Wes Goosen getting a chance at centre.

BRAD’S TON

Skipper Brad Shields returns to the Hurricanes after sitting out last week’s loss to the Brumbies through illness. The match also marks the 100th Investec Super Rugby match for the Hurricanes captain. It’s fitting that Shields brings up his 100th match at home in what will be his last season for the Hurricanes. The powerful loose forward would have found it tough sitting at home watching the Hurricanes capitulation in Canberra and will be desperate for his side to turn around that result in front of their home fans.

KEY CLASH
There will be plenty of fireworks in the midfield with Rieko Ioane lining up against Ngani Laumape at second five-eighth. Regarded as one of the most potent attacking weapons in world rugby, Ioane has moved from his usual wing position into the midfield late this season. Featuring in the top ten attacking statistics in the competition for metres, defenders beaten, clean breaks and tries, it’s no wonder that the Blues want Ioane to see more of the ball. While his attacking is world class, it’s Ioane’s defence that will be put under the microscope the wrecking-ball running of Ngani Laumape.

FAST FACT
The Hurricanes have a tackle success rate of 85% in Super Rugby 2018, the best of any team in the competition.
THE SCOOP
Although the Hurricanes have lost three on a trot, all of the losses were away from their Westpac Stadium fortress. The Hurricanes are unbeaten at home this year with six wins in Wellington and one in Napier. Home advantage and the return of key players Beauden Barrett, Vaea Fifita and Brad Shields should be enough to get the Hurricanes the win against a struggling Blues outfit.

TEAMS
Hurricanes:
Jordie Barrett, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Wes Goosen, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Blade Thomson, Sam Henwood, Brad Shields (c), Sam Lousi, Vaea Fifita, Ben May, Ricky Riccitelli, Toby Smith. Reserves: James O'Reilly, Fraser Armstrong, Jeff To'omaga-Allen, Michael Fatialofa, Gareth Evans, Jamie Booth, Ihaia West, Ben Lam.

Blues: Matt Duffie, Melani Nanai, Michael Collins, Rieko Ioane, Caleb Clarke, Stephen Perofeta, Augustine Pulu (c), Akira Ioane, Blake Gibson, Jerome Kaino, Matiaha Martin, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Matt Moulds, Alex Hodgman Reserves: James Parsons, Pauliasi Manu, Sione Mafileo, Ben Nee-Nee, Murphy Taramai, Sam Nock, Bryn Gatland, TJ Faiane.