Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Blues on right track for success with Kirwan

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

Comparisons between Sir John Kirwan and Mark Hammett will reverberate as their Super 15 worlds collide this Saturday.

They are in the layer of New Zealand coaches working their way through the pitfalls and successes of professional rugby, men chasing the title which rookie coach Dave Rennie and the Chiefs annexed last season.

Debut head coach Kirwan has reshaped the Blues' playing roster as he looks for the starch which has been absent for too long. He'd like the progress, but not the player grief, that Hammett has achieved in his two years with the Hurricanes.

Three trial games have given Kirwan and his staff confidence they are on the right track and enough substance for selection debate before the Blues unveil their side.

Five-eighths, lock and the front row will occupy most of their discussion about the right mix for the Blues' initial display in their new world start at Wellington.

The backline has brought a raw attacking energy to their work which the group wants to exploit. While the tries have clicked over there will be some concern about the shape of the defence, which needs to be tighter than some of the trial form.

Charles Piutau came through his return to fullback after a foot problem. Piri Weepu got through a chunk of time in the final trial and is bristling to make amends for last season with his service to either Chris Noakesor Baden Kerr at No10.

Ali Williams will open his Blues career as captain with Culum Retallick, Liaki Moli or Ronald Raaymakers alongside him in the second row.

Tighthead prop Charlie Faumuina is a certainty to anchor the scrum but with Keven Mealamu still on leave and Tony Woodcock at the Highlanders, there is a group - including Tom McCartney, James Parsons, Quentin MacDonald, Tim Perry and Angus Ta'avao - jostling to wear the other front row jerseys.

Tomorrow

Rebuilding the Blues - we talk to Kirwan about the philosophies that will shape his tenure.

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- NZ Herald

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