Rugby: Aggrieved Lam takes razor to Blues

By Wynne Gray

Joe Rokocoko. Photo / Getty Images
Joe Rokocoko. Photo / Getty Images

Threats were made and the proof arrived as Blues coach Pat Lam carved franchise legend Joe Rokocoko and others from his side to host the Hurricanes tomorrow at Eden Park.

The breaking point for Lam and his staff came after the fortuitous last match draw with the Force. His patience had been exhausted, his razor was at the throats of some players.

The slice came yesterday: Rokocoko was sidelined after 86 games for the side and with him went halfback Toby Morland, No 8 Chris Lowrey and prop Charlie Faumuina. That quartet have been told to play club rugby this weekend and focus on sorting out their games.

"If we are to be consistent the guys have got to perform," Lam said. "Those things have not been happening.

"Joe has been way below par. For whatever reason he is not cutting it. There is a clear message here for him and the others that when they play for the Blues they have got to be above the line otherwise the whole franchise takes a hit."

Lam has changed the team navigators with Alby Mathewson and Stephen Brett recalled to direct the side from halfback and first five-eighths, pushing Luke McAlister out a place where he will be in the midfield confrontation with Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith.

Openside flanker Daniel Braid has not recovered from his neck injury, making way for his younger brother Luke with lock Ali Williams also ruled out with his hamstring injury.

"We have got to build pressure with our game, we have to put out a quality performance on our home ground," Lam said.

The inside back rearrangements have pushed Benson Stanley on to the left wing, where he played strongly for Auckland in the 2007 national provincial competition.

"His workrate is high, he carries the ball strongly, has a useful kicking game and will work well in organising our game with Ice [Toeava].

"Stevie Brett will drive our game plan. We need some clear direction and that is where he does well while Luke will also be a help alongside him."

Faumuina has given way to All Black tighthead John Afoa while a fit-again Peter Saili returns at No 8 for Lowrey.

The Hurricanes have also sifted their troops with the most intriguing result coming at first five-eighths where Aaron Cruden has given way to Daniel Kirkpatrick, who was a draft pick last season for the Blues.

He fits in next to Nonu, who returns for his 100th match in the 'Canes uniform after suspension. Nonu, lock Jeremy Thrush and blindside flanker Faifili Levave replace Jayden Hayward, James Broadhurst and the injured Serge Lilo.

That damaged list contains Piri Weepu (ankle), Karl Lowe (knee), Hosea Gear (shoulder), Rodney So'oialo (lower back) and Alapati Leiua (knee).

Blues prop John Afoa will take up a multi-season deal with Irish club Ulster in December.

"I've got a long and tough Super rugby season ahead and hopefully an All Black one," he said, "so that is where my head has to be right now."

BLUES

Isaia Toeava
Rene Ranger
Jared Payne
Luke McAlister
Benson Stanley
Stephen Brett
Alby Mathewson
Peter Saili
Luke Braid
Jerome Kaino
Anthony Boric
Kurtis Haiu
John Afoa
Keven Mealamu (c)
Tony Woodcock

Blues: Tom McCartney, Tevita Mailau, Filo Paulo, Matt Luamanu, Chris Smylie, Lachie Munro, Sherwin Stowers.

HURRICANES

Cory Jane
Julian Savea
Conrad Smith
Ma'a Nonu
Andre Taylor
Daniel Kirkpatrick
Chris Eaton
Victor Vito
Jack Lam
Faifili Levave
Jason Eaton
Jeremy Thrush
Neemia Tialata
Andrew Hore (c)
John Schwalger

Hurricanes: Dane Coles, Anthony Perenise, James Broadhurst, Mark Reddish, Tyson Keats, Aaron Cruden, Jayden Hayward.

- NZ Herald

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