Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Kirwan's men need to win on the road

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Blues player's during a training session. File photo / Brett Phibbs
Blues player's during a training session. File photo / Brett Phibbs

Rugby remains a work in progress for Benji Marshall just as the Blues have to find a way to win away from home.

While the Blues are solid on their Eden Park home patch they have lost all four of their away matches to the Highlanders, Bulls, Lions and Brumbies.

Send them away from HQ and they look as uncertain as Marshall about the nuances of the sport.

Both factors remain for the Blues as they suit up for their next derby match with the Hurricanes in Wellington.

There was a more substantive look about the Blues when they pared back their adventure and concentrated on the basics for their home soil win against the High-landers but that promise then faded in a soggy away loss to the Brumbies.

Three penalty goals was a very modest tally from that match with the Blues left to ponder during their bye week how they can redress their fluctuating standards and inability to get a result on the road.

The Hurricanes are also coming off a bye as that franchise mulls over coaching candidates for next season. They have found a better tempo in the past few games and created more confidence with successive victories.

Meanwhile, the Blues have been oscillating - one game they look reliable before they dispel that notion in the next.

The injury ward has cleared most of its occupants with Keven Mealamu, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tom Donnelly, Francis Saili and Jamison Gibson-Park ready for this match.

The wildcard is Lolagi Visinia who was an original wing but was bypassed for any matches.

Some sharp finishing in a recent develop-ment game has given him a chance on the wing which had been filled by Frank Halai, George Moala, Tevita Li and Charles Piutau.

Another who was rebuffed but is now asked to bring his strong direction to the backline is Chris Noakes, a five-eighth whose defence is mixed like many in that role, but whose tactical experience has been reinstated for their encounter with the Canes.

Without the recovering Piri Weepu, the Blues were a little shy on some match savvy with Bryn Hall and Simon Hickey at the tiller and the coaches figure Noakes will bring a little more solidity and direction.

If conditions deteriorate in Wellington, someone such as Noakes should be able to shuffle his tactics and kicking game to suit.

He should get some adequate ball because the pack is the strongest the Blues can supply.

Six test players in that group is a wallop of talent although their selection does not guarantee a thumping production.

The noise around the Blues throughout this campaign has been about progress, the type of "getting there" comments which have accompanied Marshall.

The Blues and Hurricanes are tail-end charlies in the New Zealand conference, still in touch with the leaders but straining to cling to the pack as the competition heads into the crucial seven-match stretch before the June test window.

A number of the Blues will make that ballot but they also need to start fronting for their franchise.

- 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.

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