Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Lam has plenty of help this week

Blues coach Pat Lam. Photo / Getty Images
Blues coach Pat Lam. Photo / Getty Images

Blues coach Pat Lam has plenty of people to seek advice from this week as he prepares his team to play the Lions at Eden Park on Friday, a match between the two sides with the poorest form in the competition.

Lam has recently talked of coming across many so-called experts on the demise of the Blues, who have only one win from 10 games this season, adding that few of the opinion holders have any constructive answers.

That should not be the case in the next few days as the camp welcomes All Blacks' coaches Steve Hansen, Ian Foster and Aussie McLean into the fold, along with Sir Graham Henry.

The All Blacks trio are doing their rounds of the franchises - they were at the Chiefs last week - and will hold interviews with the Blues players, giving feedback on their performances and how they fit into the bigger national team picture.

Some talks could take a while given the poor form of many All Blacks at the franchise.

Loosehead prop Tony Woodcock is one of the few who can approach his chat with any degree of positivity. Others, including Keven Mealamu, Ali Williams, Piri Weepu and Ma'a Nonu, have been disappointing and could hear a few unpleasant truths.

Former All Blacks and Blues coach Henry, who has visited the team throughout the season, will again be making his services available to Lam, who insisted today (Monday) that he would not be stepping aside despite his players' wretched run.

Lam replied "ask the players" when questioned about whether he had lost the respect of the dressing room. He appears to have retained the loyalty and confidence of his underperforming team so far and it seems likely he would willingly make an early exit if that changed.

"All I can do is week to week, day to day, do my job to the best of my ability and we've got so many different factors and circumstances as to why things aren't happening on the field," he said. "But if we had an absolute mutiny, if things were falling apart ... I've been in those types of situations as a player."

As for having the All Blacks coaches in camp for the next few days, Lam said: "I always bounce ideas off a lot of people that matter. [They have been] incredibly supportive and talk through what they see and what we can do. A lot of the things they can see too, they feel our frustration as well."

Henry's influence was also valuable, Lam said. "The reason he's so good is he's a consultant who will ask the right questions, 'what are you doing here', 'what are you thinking' and challenging guys and ourselves."

Lam seems to have retained a sense of humour and a relatively happy demeanour despite the increasing pressure. He said he had no choice but to put on a brave face.

"If I'm depressed and giving up and doom and gloom, imagine what these guys would be like. I've got to front."

Woodcock, who missed the five-tries-to-one defeat to the Hurricanes in Wellington with a calf strain, is hopeful of returning against the Lions.

Hooker and captain Keven Mealamu, who also missed Friday night's match, remains doubtful with a calf problem of his own, with wing George Moala also unlikely to play due to a groin injury suffered against the Hurricanes.

Loose forward Chris Lowrey has been ruled out with concussion.

The Lions, directed by former All Blacks coach John Mitchell and Carlos Spencer, a former Blues player, are one spot above the Lam's team in 14th place but showed in their defeat to the Chiefs in Pukekohe on Saturday that they have a team capable of troubling the Blues.

Their forward pack is extremely large and, led by inspirational No8 and captain Joshua Strauss, they hurt the Chiefs with lineout drives which resulted in three tries.

"I suppose it is quite a desperate game for both teams so that in itself will make it a challenge. [They are] a good side, particularly the forward pack, but we respect every team, particularly where we are [on the table]. We want to get a win," Lam said.

- APNZ

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