Rugby: Blues need to adopt Anzac spirit

The Blues' title hopes might have faded some time ago but coach Pat Lam hopes his side adopt the Anzac spirit for the rest of the season. Photo / Getty Images.
The Blues' title hopes might have faded some time ago but coach Pat Lam hopes his side adopt the Anzac spirit for the rest of the season. Photo / Getty Images.

The Blues' title hopes might have faded some time ago but coach Pat Lam hopes his side adopt the Anzac spirit for the rest of the season, starting with tomorrow night's visit of the Reds to Eden Park.

An army officer spoke to the players yesterday morning before training about the history behind Anzac day and what it means. It was a poignant moment for everyone at the franchise, not least of all because of their own desperate situation. They aren't exactly pinned down in the trenches in the literal sense but it has been an immensely difficult campaign that sees them rooted to the foot of the table.

"When you talk about character building, it's not just about the game," Lam explained. "It's what you do around the environment and how we do things. It would be very easy to do nothing now and give up.

"Yesterday we had a senior man from the army come and speak to us in the morning. We did our own remembrance day. He spoke about the significance of Anzac day. If you focus on results and what happened to those men, it was a tragedy.

But when you think about the fact they didn't surrender and put everything on the line and sacrificed for others ... When you are in these sorts of situations, it would be very easy to give up.

"It's about no surrender and coming out stronger not only as a team but also each player. Some of them haven't been in this situation before. Some have but couldn't wait to get out. It's about making sure we make the most of every day."

They have a chance against a Reds side also spluttering through the 2012 season. The defending champions have won four and lost four to sit 10th, seven points outside the top six.

The Queenslanders were beaten 23-13 by a clinical Stormers outfit nearing the end of an arduous tour of New Zealand and Australia and will want to beat the Blues to boost their own playoffs aspirations.

The Blues will need to show plenty of character to overcome another blow this week, after prop Tony Woodcock was ruled out with a calf strain he picked up in training on Wednesday.

He joins fellow All Blacks Keven Mealamu (calf), Jerome Kaino (shoulder) Isaia Toeava (hip) and Anthony Boric (neck) on the sidelines and his place in the starting side will be taken by Tevita Mailau.

They will be boosted by the return of wing Rudi Wulf, who missed last week's 30-27 defeat to the Highlanders with a shoulder injury, and Piri Weepu will start after shedding more than 5kg since joining the Blues.

The halfback turned up to the Blues about 10kg above his optimum playing weight, and he has been playing Wellington club rugby for Wainuiomata on top of his commitments with the Blues in an effort to get match fit.

"He's made massive gains," Lam said before catching himself. "Losses, if you like. He's finally cracked the 100kgs. He's into the 90s now, which is great, and his skin folds have come down quite a bit. We saw the impact he made at the weekend. He has been working tirelessly behind the scenes and has done well enough to get a start.

"There's no doubt he's world-class, we know that, it was just about him getting to a position where he could do that consistently on the field. Another week, and he's done more work. I have seen the gains with the stats and the gains on the field."

Blues: Hadleigh Parkes, George Moala, Rene Ranger, Ma'a Nonu, Rudi Wulf, Gareth Anscombe, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid (c), Daniel Braid, Filo Paulo, Ali Williams, Charlie Faumuina, Tom McCartney, Tevita Mailau. Reserves: James Parsons, Pauliasi Manu/Angus Ta'avao, Liaki Moli, Chris Lowrey, Alby Mathewson, Michael Hobbs, Benson Stanley.

- APNZ

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