Focussed Blues treating Highlanders with respect

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But assistant coach Daniel Halangahu said the players knew how important the game was to the Blues region, and they were treating the Highlanders with respect.

 

There was tension, healthy tension, within the group at training on Tuesday, he said.

 

He was aware of the talk that the competition was seen by some as not the major competition of the season, but responded by saying that was only because it was new to New Zealand and Australia.

 

In other sports around the world, there were often two or three, trophies up for grabs during the year. That was normal and was how the Blues were treating the final.

 

First five-eighths Otere Black sent a scare through training, but Halangahu said he pulled out of training as a precaution after a knock to his lower leg and, given the work he had done this year, he deserved a break from training. He is expected to train on Thursday.

 

All Blacks five-eighth Beauden Barrett took part in the training run having completed his quarantine upon return from Japan. Having his experience around was valuable, Halangahu said, but there was no firm comment on whether he might be part of the finals plan.

Flanker Tom Robinson was a 50-50 chance after taking a head knock against the Force.

 

Prop Ofa Tuungafasi was less of a chance to play at 30-70 but would play if needed.

 

"He's dealing with a pretty serious hand injury that has inhibited him a bit, and also a little bit of a knee complaint," he said.

 

Attention had been paid in their review of the Force game to the less productive nature of the second half.

 

Halangahu said they looked at the simple things they did well in the first half and then at the lack of discipline, the lack of accuracy around their attack that emerged in the second half.

 

"We know it's a different situation. We can't switch off at any stage. The Highlanders have shown great form over the last five weeks so we're going to have to be on top of our game," he said.

 

"The plays they have around their maul in the 22m it's pretty to watch. If you don't have to play against them, you can sit back and clap. Tony Brown is one of the best coaches around, and the creativity he's come up with is up there. They do a really good job down there.

 

"Equally, our defence has really stood up so that will be a really good battle," he said.