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Super Rugby round seven
Blues 'must improve skill levels'
March 28, 2013
The Blues' Francis Saili fends off Dan Carter, Blues v Crusaders, Super Rugby, Eden Park, Auckland, March 1, 2013
Sir John Kirwan feels the Blues' execution has not been so good since the defeat of the Crusaders. © Getty Images
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The Blues must improve their basic skill levels if they are to challenge the Chiefs in Mt Maunganui on Saturday, coach Sir John Kirwan says.

"Let the shackles off, let's get out there and enjoy it," Kirwan said in recognition that lower skill levels in the team's most recent matches, against the Bulls and Waratahs, had contributed to the tight losses. Conversely, the Blues had executed perfectly against the Hurricanes and the Crusaders in their opening two matches of the season.

Kirwan said the team was capable of seeing the problems but the players had been guilty of individualising the response instead of retaining the team concept and being patient. "I think we're just a little bit worried about the whole event we're in. We just need to express ourselves," he said.

The next three games - the Chiefs, the Highlanders and the Hurricanes - were important for the Blues, before their second bye, Kirwan said. "We're playing the champions and we're excited about it. The pressure keeps mounting. We'd love to go into this game having beaten the Waratahs but the reality is the competition is going to be very tight this year; people are going to win and lose, and we need to have a very good three weeks."

Kirwan was impressed by the manner in which the Chiefs overcame their return from South Africa against a determined Highlanders team , saying the Chiefs had great discipline and defence, and were capable of pouncing on any mistakes.

Kirwan acknowledged that Wayne Smith had been a significant mentor in his earlier years of coaching, but he said the Chiefs' assistant coach hadn't been giving him advice since he took up the Blues job.

"He's one of the best coaches in the world and he's really helped me," Kirwan said. "That's stopped since I've come back because he's in the opposition but I'm really looking forward to catching up with him and it's a neat thing to go up against what I think is a great coaching team and a great rugby team."

Kirwan said he admired the way Smith coached, noting that he had enjoyed six months as a player under Smith and every training run had been different while achieving the same outcome.

Blues: Charles Piutau; Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, George Moage; Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu; Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua; Ali Williams (captain), Culum Retallick; Angus Ta'avao, James Parsons, Tom McCartney. Replacements: Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Anthony Boric, Brendon O'Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Baden Kerr, Jackson Willison.

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