Three changes for the Blues
March 8, 2000
The Auckland Blues have moved to shore up areas of weakness exposed by the Chiefs in their Super 12 rugby game last Sunday.
He has retained faith in Orene Ai'i after a solid performance which saw him repeatedly crossing the advantage line only to be isolated through a lack of support. Coach Gordon Hunter will try to rectify this by replacing openside flanker Justin Collins with the impressive Finau Maka.
"Finau gets a deserved start in the team for Friday,'' Hunter said. But the key to his thinking may be the greater support and understanding Maka will provide for Ai'i. "I've also decided to stay supportive of Orene rather than boot him off the horse. I've elected to stay with him."
Keven Mealamu gets another start at hooker after Davin Heaps had to be hospitalised with a kidney ailment which will keep him out for another week. "We've got a bye next week so that will help in Davin coming right,'' Hunter said. At lock, Charles Riechelmann is relegated to the bench with the return of inspirational captain Robin Brooke. "I'm fine now and am really looking forward to playing down at Jade Stadium - they're always great games,'' Brooke said.
In the backs, Hunter has moved North Harbour's Walter Little to the bench to reunite Auckland's successful NPC midfield pairing of Craig Innes and Eroni Clarke. He has also sent fullback Hayden Taylor to goalkicking guru Grant Fox for tutelage. "We're addressing our goalkicking area, so we've sent Hayden to a specialist. Apart from missing the five goals, the lad had a very good game with two tries. It is a matter of showing faith in him rather than throwing him out.''
Auckland Blues: Hayden Taylor, Joeli Vidiri, Eroni Clarke, Doug Howlett, Craig Innes, Orene Ai'i, Mark Robinson, Xavier Rush, Finau Maka, Robin Brooke (captain), Troy Flavell, Andrew Blowers, Craig Dowd, Keven Mealamu, Paul Thomson. Substitutes: Iliesa Tanivula, Walter Little, Ben Meyer, Justin Collins, Charles Riechelmann, Nick White, James Christian.
"The thirst for knowledge has seen coaches break away from the confines of rugby and look to America." Tom Hamilton on the two-way learning process
On Saturday, New Zealand face the USA in a match that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Hamilton finds the atmosphere building in Chicago
Most modern rugby players will not know the name Ray Williams but they should be eternally grateful to him, writes John Taylor
With the All Blacks playing the USA Eagles this weekend, Craig Dowd says rugby is ready to make a professional breakthrough Stateside