Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: West gets nod at No 10 for Blues

Ihaia West. Photo / Getty Images
Ihaia West. Photo / Getty Images

Ihaia West has been given the nod to spark the Blues' attack against the Hurricanes at Eden Park on Saturday.

In what has been a remarkable rise for the Hawkes Bay playmaker who joined the squad mid-season in place of the injured Baden Kerr, West will start his first match at this level after replacing Simon Hickey.

"What we've been impressed with is his calmness under fire," coach John Kirwan said of 22-year-old West.

"He's come in and been thrown in the deep end and said 'bring it on' so he deserves his start. We really think he could be an influential player in the future of this franchise like Simon so we've got two very good young men in our squad and it's no secret that we are looking for someone to step into that role.

"Both those young men have certainly put their hands up but I think with Ihaia getting a start this week we just want a little bit more attack and he'll bring that to us."

George Moala is named on the left wing ahead of Tevita Li who has been stood down for a breach of internal team protocol, while veteran halfback Piri Weepu has overcome a groin strain to be named on the bench.

Consecutive defeats to the Chiefs and Sharks in recent weeks has opened up a gap between the bottom-placed Blues and the rest of the New Zealand Conference as they currently sit 11 points off front runners the Crusaders and 10 points behind the second placed Hurricanes.

Kirwan said of the Hurricanes: "They're in form and are playing bloody well but they're still under pressure because they finish with a bye so everyone else has four games whereas they have three so it's a must-win for them which is similar to us. Barrett is playing the house down and their backs are really firing so if you give them an inch they'll take a mile."

Blues team to play the Hurricanes at Eden Park on Saturday, kick-off 7.35pm is: Lolagi Visinia, Frank Halai, Pita Ahki, Ma'a Nonu, George Moala, Ihaia West, Bryn Hall, Jerome Kaino, Luke Braid (c), Peter Saili, Tom Donnelly, Patrick Tuipulotu, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: James Parsons, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Angus Ta'avao, Hayden Triggs, Steven Luatua, Piri Weepu, Simon Hickey, Albert Nikoro.

- APNZ

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