Game of the Week - Hurricanes v Blues
April 30, 2009
The Hurricanes host the Blues in a huge New Zealand derby at Westpac Stadium on Friday night, with the home side currently leading the table. Pat Lam's Blues are only two points behind top spot and will be cursing a surprise defeat to the Reds last time out, while the Hurricanes have looked in imperious form. Their 56-7 victory over the Brumbies last time out came thanks to eight tries and showcased some scintillating form from their back-line.
The 'Canes again leave All Black Piri Weepu on the bench, Alby Mathewson and Willie Ripia retaining the halfback berths. Ma'a Nonu, arguably the player of the season thus far, and Conrad Smith continue in the centre. Cory Jane, Tamati Ellison and David Smith are also retained in the backline.
The Blues have a big attacking threat of their own in a back-three featuring Rudi Wulf, Rene Ranger and Joe Rokocoko, and feature an All Black centre partnership of Anthony Tuitavake and Isaia Toeava. Up front, skipper Keven Mealamu is recalled to the front-row alongside Tony Woodcock and Tevita Mailau.
Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper has had to make some tough selection decisions, but is satisfied that he has got the mix right to take on the Blues.
"It's a tough competition," he said. "I think the selection at the start is massive and you've got to be prepared to do your homework there, and then you've got to be blessed and I think we have, we've had minimal injuries.
"The way we've performed, particularly coming back from Africa and the Force game and the Stormers game, we're really happy because we're starting to play as a team. There's always that worry and that's the mental side of it so, as coaches, we've got to demand more and keep our standards up. It really comes back to mentality and maybe Pat [Lam] is a little bit disappointed with his crew, maybe their mentality wasn't quite there last week, but I know it will certainly be there this week."
Hurricanes: Tamati Ellison, Zac Guildford, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, David Smith, Willie Ripia, Alby Mathewson, Rodney So'oialo (capt), Scott Waldrom, Victor Vito, Bryn Evans, Jeremy Thrush, Neemiah Tialata, Andrew Hore, John Schwalger.
Replacements: Ged Robinson, Jacob Ellison, Jason Eaton, Api Naikatini, Piri Weepu, Jason Kawau, Robert Fruean.
Blues: Rudi Wulf, Rene Ranger, Anthony Tuitavake, Isaia Toeava, Joe Rokocoko, Jimmy Gopperth, Taniela Moa, Jerome Kaino, Tom Chamberlain, Kurtis Haiu, Ali Williams, Jay Williams, Tevita Mailau, Keven Mealamu (capt), Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: Tom McCartney, Charlie Faumuina, Dean Budd, Peter Saili, Grayson Hart, Michael Hobbs, Paul Williams.
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton
Kiwi coaches can be found far and wide across the globe, and Murray Mexted believes the All Blacks benefit every bit as much as their rivals
Clermont, Toulon, player burnout, Sam Burgess and a farewell to Adams Park - Monday Maul looks back at the weekend's action