Rugby: Blues carry lessons on rules to Dunedin

By Wynne Gray

Blues fullback Paul Williams will play against the Highlanders. Photo / Getty Images
Blues fullback Paul Williams will play against the Highlanders. Photo / Getty Images

All but one of the Blues get a repeat chance to impress coach Pat Lam in tomorrow's Super 14 trip to test their fortunes against the Highlanders.

Fullback Paul Williams returns after missing last week's loss to the Hurricanes as he recovered from a head knock from the squad's final pre-season trial match.

His inclusion means Rudi Wulf shifts to the wing with Rene Ranger dropping into the reserves.

Lam believes his side learned a number of invaluable lessons about the rules after being penalised severely by referee Stu Dickinson in their initial 34-20 defeat.

"I think it was more the theme that they [referees] were going to come hard at us. We were the first team to get it and certainly we don't want that every week," said Lam.

The key Blues players had dissected the problem areas and how to fix the faults and were determined to address them in their second match. The referees had made it clear they were going to be tough this season and needed time to settle into their duties.

Some decisions from Dickinson were debatable, but that was the same in any game.

"We've just got to ensure we make it crystal clear for the ref," said Lam. "Along with that is being in the right field position."

The players had identified their problems. "They all understand what they need to sort out. If we tidy that area up, we'll be a much better team."

The Highlanders, on their home patch at Carisbrook, would be extra committed and resilient. Halfback Jimmy Cowan was a staunch competitor, while Adam Thomson led the loose forwards strongly. The team had shown their ability to hang tough last week against the Crusaders.

All the signs pointed to this being a dogged, physical encounter.

Lam rejected any notion the opening defeat pointed to another troubled season or that five-eighths was already a Blues problem area. Stephen Brett was the side's five-eighths, Daniel Kirkpatrick was his understudy and the side was not looking beyond that duo.

"There is no need to do a salvage job because I think for 55 minutes he [Brett] was the best five-eighths in the competition," Lam said about round one.

Midfielder Luke McAlister was a few weeks away from full fitness, but he, Chris Lowrey and Anthony Tuitavake were expected to play some rugby for the development side this weekend.

Dunedin, 7.35pm tomorrow

HIGHLANDERS
Israel Dagg
Ben Smith
Jason Shoemark
Jayden Hayward
James Paterson
Michael Hobbs
Jimmy Cowan (c)
Steven Setephano
Alando Soakai
Adam Thomson
Tom Donnelly
Josh Bekhuis
Clint Newland
Jason Rutledge
Jamie Mackintosh

Reserves: Jason Macdonald, Chris King, Hayden Triggs, John Hardie, Sean Romans.

BLUES
Paul Williams
Rudi Wulf
Isaia Toeava
Benson Stanley
Joe Rokocoko
Stephen Brett
Alby Mathewson
Viliami Ma'afu
Serge Lilo
Jerome Kaino
Anthony Boric
Kurtis Haiu
John Afoa
Keven Mealamu (c)
Tony Woodcock

Reserves: Tom McCartney, Charlie Faumuina, Filo Paulo, Peter Saili, Chris Smylie, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Rene Ranger.

- NZ Herald

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