Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Baby Blues backed to bounce back

Embattled Blues coach Pat Lam during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Lions at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images
Embattled Blues coach Pat Lam during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Lions at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images

As a Baby Blacks anniversary approaches, it's time to add the Baby Blues to rugby's lexicon.

There weren't gasps when Pat Lam revealed his side for tomorrow's return Super 15 match with the Highlanders, but it took some time to deduce the changes and comprehend the new makeup.

The Blues have eight changes from the group who played the Highlanders last month, with three players who were at the All Blacks wider training group on the bench. The Blues are a squad with listless form and a growing injury list, with George Moala the latest casualty after cutting a tendon in his thumb in an off-field incident.

"It's another of the bizarre unfortunate things which have happened this year," Lam said.

Test loosehead Tony Woodcock is the only starter from the test training group with Ali Williams, in what will be his 100th Super match, Piri Weepu and Ma'a Nonu on the bench, while Keven Mealamu and Charlie Faumuina are injured.

"Woody was keen to play and I think on the back of his delayed start this year, that was part of it," Lam said. "It's a bit of last man standing.

"Obviously after the loss last week we need some energy and some excitement to bounce back. We have put a bit of faith in some of the younger guys and then have the experience to come off the bench, which we are going to need at the end of the game.

"We were pretty embarrassed and gutted about it [the 59-12 loss to the Crusaders] and we know we have to bounce back."

Asked what he thought the reaction would be to having All Blacks on the bench, Lam suggested it could not be any worse than the comments about their work throughout the season.

"It's still a 22-man game and they'll come off the bench."

The alterations may not have finished, with a fitness test required today on Peter Saili.

Meanwhile, his younger brother, Francis, is one of three wider training group players, along with Hadleigh Parkes and James Parsons, picked for tomorrow's match at Eden Park.

Francis Saili will play at centre in his starting debut after a brief appearance as a substitute against the Stormers in the Blues fourth game of the season.

Lam was sure his pack would cope with tomorrow's challenge. There were players busting to test themselves further in Super 15 and the Blues were determined to rectify the embarrassment of last week.

- NZ Herald

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