Rugby: Fatigue forces seven changes for Perth clash

By Wynne Gray

Charlie Faumuina. Photo / Greg Bowker
Charlie Faumuina. Photo / Greg Bowker

First starts have been ordered for prop Charlie Faumuina and halfback Toby Morland while half the Blues side remain without a rest for their next Super 15 clash with the Force.

Coach Pat Lam has made seven switches to his team for Sunday's match in Perth while the Force have shown a similar selection strategy as they cater for a growing injury list.

Captain Keven Mealamu, Anthony Boric, Daniel Braid and Rene Ranger will start after warming the Blues bench last round while No 8 Chris Lowrey returns for the injured Saili along with Faumuina and Morland, who have been chosen instead of All Blacks John Afoa and Alby Mathewson.

"That All Black front row has gone three games on the trot and the travel factor adds to the fatigue so this is a good opportunity to give Charlie a run and give John a chance to freshen up and to come off the bench," Lam said.

"One of the things is it is not just the game, it is also the training, so Charlie took a lot more of the scrummaging load and contact today at training.

"He's coming up to nearly 30 Super rugby games now and has done well when he has come off the bench and we have every confidence in him."

Morland also had plenty of experience and was ready to step into the halfback breach as Mathewson was showing signs of fatigue from his playing schedule.

Stopping off in Perth was another adjustment the side needed to make.

Temperatures were in the mid-30s during the day and still high at night. The Blues were to have a run under lights last night at the new nib Stadium to get more accustomed to the ground, conditions and the time difference for their fourth-round match.

They were content to start Ali Williams once more with the senior lock getting coaching raps about his aerial work, teamwork and growing input each match.

"We said at the start of the season he was at the bottom of the mountain and I'd say he is certainly moving up that mountain to be where he was a few years ago," said Lam.

The Blues have had a win, loss, win start to their season with victory in Perth this round a reasonable target against a Force side without a win and denuded of some senior talent.

Openside flanker David Pocock and centre Mitch Inman are injured while midfield back Rory Sidey has been banned for three weeks for a spear tackle.

Pocock's absence allows Ben McCalman to switch to his more familiar No 8 role in a rearranged loose forward unit while Sam Wickes returns to the side at lock alongside captain Nathan Sharpe.

"[Pocock] is a quality player. He is right up there," said Lam.

"We all know that Richie [McCaw] is No 1 but in other people's minds he is pushing him or people rate him better and that just shows you where he is at. It is the nature of the game and the competition that everyone loses quality players and we have seen it before.

"It galvanises a team or it can go either way. They still have Brown and Hodgson - Wallabies - and are still stacked with them as well. Sometimes when they are not there it forces the others to step up. While it is a big loss for them it can make them more dangerous."

FORCE v BLUES
Perth, 12.05am Sunday

FORCE
Cameron Shepherd
Alfie Mafi
Nick Cummins
Gene Fairbanks
David Smith
James O'Connor
Brett Sheehan
Ben McCalman
Matt Hodgson
Richard Brown
Nathan Sharpe (c)
Sam Wykes
Tim Fairbrother
Ben Whittaker
Pek Cowan
Reserves: Nathan Charles, Matt Dunning, Jono Jenkins, Tevita Metuisela, James Stannard, Matt Brandon, Pat Dellit.

BLUES
Isaia Toeava
Joe Rokocoko
Jared Payne
Benson Stanley
Rene Ranger
Luke McAlister
Toby Morland
Chris Lowrey
Daniel Braid
Jerome Kaino
Ali Williams
Anthony Boric
Charlie Faumuina
Keven Mealamu (c)
Tony Woodcock
Reserves: Tom McCartney, John Afoa, Kurtis Haiu, Luke Braid, Alby Mathewson, Stephen Brett, Sherwin Stowers.

- NZ Herald

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