Sir John Kirwan names full-strength Blues
March 22, 2013
Sir John Kirwan expects Francis Saili and the Blues to face a physical challenge from the Waratahs © Getty Images
Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan has, as expected, restored his successful combinations for the Super Rugby match against New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney on Sydney.
Kirwan has reverted to the formula that saw the Blues defeat the Hurricanes and Crusaders in the opening two rounds of the Super Rugby competition before he made substantial changes to the team ahead of the pre-bye defeat by the Bulls in Auckland.
Chris Noakes takes the reins at first five-eighth, while George Moala, Peter Saili, Culum Retallick, James Parsons and Tom McCartney all return to the starting XV, with Kirwan certain his side will face a physical challenge.
"I think they'll play their best game of rugby," Kirwan said of the struggling Waratahs, who sit last in the Australian conference. "They're under the pump, they're desperate, they've got a coach who's saying 'this is a war', and they've got a good enough football team to beat anyone. So if we're not ready for that sort of intensity then we're going to lose. I reckon it's a huge test for both teams."
Kirwan has also named All Blacks lock Anthony Boric among the replacements to make his first appearance in more than a year after neck surgery. Half-back Jamison Gibson-Park maintains his position in the 22 in place of Bryn Hall.
"We've got this idea of making sure we continue to create a full squad," Kirwan said of his decision to make changes for the Bulls game. "The loss certainly influenced what we do going forward so it's back to the guys that have been proven for us. We've kept Jamo [Gibson-Park] on the bench because we thought he came on and brought us a different look from half-back.
The Waratahs suffered another depressing loss, against the Cheetahs (video available only in Australia)%]
Kirwan also said that he would not be afraid to select fresh faces en masse again, saying " if we were a few weeks down the track and we'd got a few more wins then we'd probably look at trying to involve more guys just because if we don't and some injuries happen down the track we're going to be under the pump."
Kirwan said that Boric was physically and mentally ready to get stuck in against the Waratahs after three hit-outs for the Blues development team.
"We've picked him because he's stopped mentally processing. He's had those three development games and in the first game he was thinking about his neck and doing things that he might not normally do … but he's progressively got better so he's in the side because he'll go on and won't think about it anymore. We're pleased to have him back."
Blues: Charles Piutau; Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, George Moala; Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu; Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua; Ali Williams (captain), Culum Retallick; Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Tom McCartney. Replacements: Quentin MacDonald, Angus Ta'avao, Anthony Boric, Brendon O'Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Baden Kerr, Jackson Willison.
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
Cards, kicks, slips and scores: It's The Week in Pictures, the finest snaps from the last seven days of rugby
Huw Richards Rewinds to 1975 when three Welsh legends were handed their debuts and assesses their legacy
Seven places in the Champions Cup quarter-finals are up for grabs; we break down the permutations for each group in the final round of matches