Blues name side for semi-final clash
June 29, 2011
Ranger will hope he gets the nod ahead of Munro for Saturday's clash © Getty Images
Blues' coach Pat Lam has named his side ahead of Saturday's Super Rugby semi-final clash with the Reds but will wait until his side arrive in Brisbane before revealing who will start on the left wing.
Rene Ranger and Lachie Munro have both been named on the original team sheet as starting on the left flank, but with Ranger coming back from a two-week layoff with a hamstring injury and Munro still feeling the effects of a late Phil Waugh clash on Friday, Lam has delayed the final decision over who will start.
"It's a tough decision as we go through it but it's about getting through today's training, getting over to Brisbane and then making a call tomorrow when we get over there," Lam said. "We've still got plenty of time, we've got three days before the game and it's seeing how they both come out of training today."
Chris Lowrey has been named alongside Ali Williams in the second-row, following an injury sustained by Anthony Boric against the Waratahs on Friday. Boric faces a battle to be fit for the Tri-Nations and Lam conceded the 19-cap All Black was a big loss to the side but has backed Lowrey to step into the berth.
"He's a massive loss," Lam conceded. "The experience, the form, just the fact that he is a lock is a big loss for us but hey we've had that all season. With all the players that we have lost we just have to move forward and I'm really confident that Chris Lowrey will do a good job as well as Ali and the other forwards."
Boric's absence in the second-row may mean a re-organisation of the Blues' line-out. Jerome Kaino can provide an option and captain Keven Mealamu has admitted the side will have to be "smart and use our line-out ball well" on Saturday. Lam is satisfied with his side's options and insists they will not be overly reliant on All Black Williams.
"Chris Lowrey showed against the Highlanders he can win ball," he said. "The thing about lineouts is there's more than just having a tall guy there. It is about making sure the timing, the combinations and the execution are right, so we're confident we will get enough ball and it won't all go to Ali Williams."
Mealamu, meanwhile, is hoping his side make a better start than they did the last time the two sides came face-to-face in Brisbane back in May. The Blues found themselves 24 points down after the first quarter but managed to get themselves back in touching distance just missing out 37-31 come the final whistle.
"We've really got to make the most of this opportunity to be in the semis, it's been such a long time," said Mealamu. "I think if we take the learning's from the last time in Brisbane we can come off with a really good result. If we can eliminate those first 20 minutes we will put ourselves in a better situation."
With the Suncorp Stadium aiming for a record 52,000 sell-out, Lam is relishing the chance to see a Blues side in the semi-final of a Super Rugby competition for the first time since 2007, when they lost out 34-18 to the Sharks.
"We haven't been in this situation for many years," he said. "We're all excited and it's going to be good to get over to some heat. We've got nothing to lose. Four hasn't beaten one in 12 years and everything points to a Reds victory, so it's a good challenge for us."
Other team news sees Luke Braid start ahead of his older brother Daniel at openside, with Daniel Braid hoping to make an appearance from the bench against his former side.
Jared Payne, Joe Rokocoko, Benson Stanley, Luke McAlister, Lachie Munro/Rene Ranger, Stephen Brett, Alby Mathewson; Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu (captain), John Afoa, Chris Lowrey, Ali Williams, Jerome Kaino, Luke Braid, Peter Saili
Replacements: Tom McCartney, Tevita Mailau, James King/Mat Luamanu, Daniel Braid, Chris Smylie, Munro/Ranger, Winston Stanley/Sherwin Stowers.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham