Blues name team to face the Chiefs

Author
Radio Sport, NZ Herald ,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Thursday, 16 May 2019, 8:04PM
The Blues are looking to end their losing streak. (Photo / Getty)

Blues co-captain Patrick Tuipulotu has promised his side will bring a hard, physical edge to their match against the Chiefs, a side he believes enjoy using "bully" tactics and who could receive some of their own medicine at Eden Park on Saturday.

Tuipulotu's men, in 14th place, need a win to have any chance of making the playoffs knowing too they have been pushed around for too long by their rivals down State Highway 1.

The Blues haven't beaten the Chiefs since 2011 and lost a thriller last month in Hamilton 33-29 despite a standout performance from midfielder Ma'a Nonu because the home side, led by lock Brodie Retallick, dominated the breakdown area.

Tuipulotu and his side are determined that won't happen again. The Blues, who have won only one derby match this season – a win over the Highlanders at Eden Park in March – showed intensity and physicality in their 22-12 defeat to the Hurricanes last weekend and more of the same is required.

"They're a big, physical side and over the years they've prided themselves on being the bully," Tuipulotu said. "For us, we've come so close so many times it's really up to us to get over the line."

Asked if it was more important to take a stand physically against the Chiefs than virtually any other team, he replied: "Yeah, if you want to bully the bully then that's the way to go."

Tuipulotu added: "We've been put under the pump by the coaches and because of that we've had a good training week. It's been one of the best so far. We have to get one over the Chiefs and we have the confidence we can."

All Black Retallick remains out with a wrist injury but coach Leon MacDonald expects others to step into the breach for the visitors.

"He was a big player in the game last time," MacDonald said. "He had a massive influence. He probably gave his team the recipe they were looking for – the niggle at the breakdown and the relentless pressure. I'm sure someone else will pick up that baton. We're expecting three or four Retallick-like performances from their tight five.

"They enjoy playing us … and we're in the same boat."

MacDonald has retained Harry Plummer at first-five after the 20-year-old began brightly against the Hurricanes before leaving the field for a head injury assessment late in the first half that he did not return from.

"He's an impressive young man," MacDonald said of Plummer. "He's had a few setbacks and things haven't gone his way completely but in terms of sticking to his guns he's done that and he deserves another chance."

Halfback Sam Nock is out for the rest of the season after having surgery on a finger he injured in the first half of that match, with Jonathan Ruru getting the nod for the No 9 jersey ahead of Augustine Pulu.

All Blacks prop Karl Tu'inukuafe has been named on the reserves bench, along with loose forward Tom Robinson, who was ruled out of the Hurricanes game due to concussion.

The Blues were looking for a little extra finesse after failing to capitalise on several scoring chances last weekend but had trained as well as they have all season and MacDonald felt the pieces were coming together for a complete performance.

"We did enough to win the game – quite clearly, I think."

Blues team to play the Chiefs at Eden Park on Saturday, kick-off 7.35pm: 15. Melani Nanai, 14. Caleb Clarke, 13. TJ Faiane, 12. Ma'a Nonu, 11. Rieko Ioane, 10. Harry Plummer, 9. Jonathan Ruru, 8. Akira Ioane, 7. Blake Gibson (cc), 6. Dalton Papalii, 5. Scott Scrafton, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu (cc), 3. Ofa Tuungafasi, 2. James Parsons, 1. Alex Hodgman.

Reserves: 16. Matt Moulds, 17. Lua Li, 18. Karl Tu'inukuafe, 19. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20. Tom Robinson, 21. Augustine Pulu, 22. Otere Black, 23. Matt Duffie.

 

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