Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Conditions perfect for Blues to get it together

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This time there are no excuses, no first match rust to blame, no lack of time together. Photo / Getty Images
This time there are no excuses, no first match rust to blame, no lack of time together. Photo / Getty Images

Over to you, Blues. Are you good enough to make amends for your slapdash Super 15 start in Dunedin?

That should not be forgotten and a few prompts from your coaches about that clumsy beginning should have been used in your preparation routines.

This time there are no excuses, no first match rust to blame, no lack of time together.

You are at home on Eden Park for your repeat duel against the Highlanders, you are back into the routines of playing and training at home after the trip to South Africa.

Sir John Kirwan and Co have debated the choices and picked their strongest combination to redress the opening round loss and build on last week's win against the Cheetahs.

Tonight is about the Blues' attitude. Have they got the will to win, are they demanding more from each other, are they prepared to deliver as much as their injured warrior Keven Mealamu has for the team?

What would Mealamu make of this year's work? He will have delivered his thoughts in team meetings and specialist discussions with the tight forwards but that's not like feeling his heat during a game and following his example.

Injury has restricted Mealamu to one appearance from the bench this season when the Blues held on to repel a late Crusaders' charge.

Much of his defiance has transferred to the Blues' new captain Luke Braid who keeps churning when obstacles appear. They are players who bring the hard edge, the extra tackle, the shoulder to another ruck and the sting in the tackle.

They refuse to buckle, there is no yield in their temperament but they cannot do it alone.

Another who had that trait was Jerome Kaino, the loose forward who was such a fearsome component in his last few seasons for the All Blacks before he headed for Japan.

His MO was all about bending the advantage line on his carries or leading the defensive units to keep any rivals behind that precious territory. Kaino was brutally effective in both those quests.

He is back and starting tonight on the blindside. The selectors have a positional quandary about the versatile talents of Kaino and Steven Luatua. Both are blindside flankers who can play other roles but the Blues must feel Kaino will get back to his best in his old test role, while Luatua shows even more of his utility value.

That sort of juggling comes in the backs too where Ma'a Nonu has been picked at second five-eighths and Jackson Willison moves out one place.

The Kaino, Luatua, Nonu and Jackson Willison quartet will have duties from set play but for the rest of the match they will have roaming tasks. What cannot wander is their attention to duty.

Kaino and Nonu may be rusty after their offshore and injury interludes but if the Blues get a ruthless attitude from both, their return should deliver a dividend.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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