Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Anscombe's number comes up

Blues player Gareth Anscombe. Photo / Getty Images
Blues player Gareth Anscombe. Photo / Getty Images

The Blues youngest player, Gareth Anscombe, will be asked to pilot the side when they resume their uncertain search for the Super 15 playoffs.

Anscombe will make his third start as first five-eighths for the Blues when they travel to Melbourne for Thursday's clash with the Rebels.

Coach Pat Lam will reveal the side's latest configuration today after a training run and final medical checks.

Jerome Kaino and Isaia Toeava are season casualties, Luke Braid is suspended for another week, David Raikuna has a hamstring problem and Anthony Boric a bulging disc in his neck.

Toeava is dealing with recurrent hip problems and is considering options from rest to surgery, which means he will not be seen again in the Super 15 series.

All Black lock Boric has been told to rest for at least another month after being invalided home from the tour of South Africa.

"He may be out for longer than that, we don't quite know how it will pan out but he will also have to consider his choices," team doctor Stephen Kara said.

Halfback Alby Mathewson has trained again after damaging his ankle in the last loss to the Hurricanes and that has pushed the idea that he may be best paired with Anscombe to start the match with Piri Weepu to deliver some impact from the bench.

After four defeats in five matches, the list of issues for Lam and his staff has expanded and there has been no clear evidence of a consistent selection spine at No 8, halfback and five-eighths.

Kaino's injury was a huge blow at No 8. While Mathewson and Weepu have shared the halfback duties, Weepu, Anscombe and Michael Hobbs have each started at five-eighths.

Anscombe made his starting debut against the Bulls in South Africa where he scored the side's entire 29 points in the only victory in five outings this season for the Blues. He remained for the following match against the Stormers but was benched for the defeat against the Hurricanes. There were all sorts of reasons and theories for that.

Now, it seems the coaches believe he should start and be given a run of matches to try to help the Blues find some rhythm which has been absent for much of this season.

There must be other changes.

Rudi Wulf seems sure to shift from wing to fullback where he should be able to remedy some of the defensive frailties which cost the Blues so dearly against the Hurricanes.

Utility Rene Ranger is back from a two-game suspension and will be somewhere in the three-quarter line, while Lachie Munro's kicking ability and an injury to David Raikuna may mean he is used on the wing.

Another outside back, George Moala, played half a club match at the weekend to test his shoulder. He survived that exam but is probably not yet ready to start.

With Kaino and Luke Braid unavailable, the loose forward roster remains a problem as the coaches try to juggle Brad Mika, Daniel Braid, Chris Lowrey, Peter Saili and perhaps Sean Polwart from the wider training group.

- NZ Herald

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