Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Blues hope 'locals' will lead the way

Michael Hobbs will start against local Hurricanes hotshot Beauden Barrett. Photo / Getty Images
Michael Hobbs will start against local Hurricanes hotshot Beauden Barrett. Photo / Getty Images

Michael Hobbs reversed the Super 15 trend and the Blues hope for a similar shift in tonight's duel with the Hurricanes.

The 24-year-old is in the middle of a Wellington backline troika heading "home", with purpose and retribution high on their agenda.

Hobbs is sandwiched between internationals Ma'a Nonu and Piri Weepu with the halfback needing to deliver a number of reminders that he was a good buy for the Blues and is still a halfback option for the All Blacks.

Live scoring: Hurricanes v Blues, 7.35pm tonight

The "homecoming" will be especially emotional for Hobbs who had been unable to regain a starting role since he left the team in South Africa to attend his father's funeral.

Hobbs learned his trade for several seasons at the Queensland Rugby Academy before heading home, unlike another prospective Blues five-eighths Mike Harris who is now wearing the maroon jersey with distinction.

"It is a bit of a surprise, I guess," Hobbs said of his five-eighths selection. "I have come on at 12 in the last few games and thought that was where I was heading."

"I know the moves anyway and have trained a bit at 10. It's great to have a game and interesting to go down there as the away team."

Hobbs has played a bit of rugby at the Cake Tin where the wind plays havoc with kickers who are unfamiliar with the usual breezy conditions.

"One minute you think you have the wind with you and the next it's into you. You're never quite sure, you've just got to kick it hard, hit it true and hope it flies straight."

This time Hobbs will start against local hotshot Beauden Barrett, after coming on for the last 30 minutes in their previous encounter when Barrett sealed the late upset with his dazzling run and offload to Conrad Smith.

"We should have sealed that but the Canes have a lot of young guys who want to prove themselves and have had a crack. They have not caught me by surprise."

Hobbs acknowledged the Blues were feeling the squeeze. They needed to deal with the basics, show some individual pride in their work and stick to the game plan.

Coach Pat Lam blamed a drift away from the agreed tactics as the basis for their demise last round. There were many other faults, too, which had to be remedied.

While the Blues have not won at Eden Park this season the Hurricanes have been beaten on all three of their outings at the Cake Tin.

Young Canes halfback TJ Perenara will aim to disrupt Weepu's night but hopes he will return to the Hurricanes next season.

"In the future it could be an awesome thing for the team, and even for me, to learn off him as well," he said.

The Blues might be last in the New Zealand conference but the Canes were wary of their firepower and potential.

"We need to limit their options, give them only one, and, hopefully, when they take it, it will be easier for us to deal with."

- NZ Herald

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