Preview: Blues v Highlanders
HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 20, Blues 13, Highlanders 7
WALKING WOUNDED: With no injury concerns it was more a case of who to fit in where for the Blues. Tim Perry won the loosehead berth ahead of Tom McCartney while Jackson Willison was preferred for the hard-worked Francis Saili at second five-eighths. Also back in consideration for the first time was All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu who starts from the bench.
Former Crusaders No.8 Mose Tuiali'i has answered a call from the Highlanders to beef up their loose forwards in the absence of bullocking Nasi Manu. Former Blues prop Tony Woodcock isn't expected to run onto Eden Park due to a hamstring strain and that will give Jamie Mackintosh a rare start for the side this season.
FORM: As Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph commented during the week it has been the failure to produce 80-minute efforts that had been behind the lack of success for the side. In close games those missing minutes were where the opposition got it over the Highlanders. The side needed to 'fight' more, especially with the ball in hand and it needed to give away the slow starts which put it behind the eight ball in games.
The Blues started the season with a hiss and a roar but have failed to build on the potential shown. They have a great chance to re-establish some momentum, but they will need to show clear heads while making good decisions, coach Sir John Kirwan says. Clearly opponents analysed what the Blues were up to when running the ball in their two opening wins and it is necessary for the side to produce different options if they are to build on their start.
WE THINK: The fact the Blues have been finishing close enough to rivals to pick up losers' bonus points is an important pointer to the fact that they are not far off getting more wins. Knowing that, and playing at home, against a team which is getting more and more desperate should be sufficient for the Blues to claim a win. We think Blues by 10.