Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Waratahs a tricky test for Blues

The Blues' next rugby challenge shapes as a trapdoor fixture.

Their voyage across the ditch to play the Waratahs on Sunday will be a test on many fronts after their last round bye.

Momentum is a boon for any team and their staff in such a demanding programme as the Super 15. When sides stutter they often find it difficult to regain their rhythm.

The Blues lost their last game against the Bulls and they need to find the sting which marked their opening work in the series.

On recent evidence, the Blues should beat the Waratahs who have managed just one win in their last 12 games and are struggling to connect with coach Michael Cheika's philosophy. He wants them to keep the ball more and accepts there will be mishaps as the Waratahs try to adopt that unfamiliar strategy.

Similar heat is coming on the Blues to improve standards which dipped against the Bulls.

Coach John Kirwan and his colleagues will ramp up the Blues' conviction in their ability to reproduce the style which saw off the Hurricanes and Crusaders. But that encouragement will be balanced with demands for greater accuracy and attention to game plans.

They have had time to mull over their best selection after a different set of players got some work in the loss to the Bulls.

Former All Black lock Anthony Boric may be getting closer to a place on the bench but former skipper Keven Mealamu will not make the trip despite linking up with the Blues again today after his sabbatical. He is likely to be on the bench for the following game with the Chiefs.

Hooker James Parsons, lock Culum Retallick and a fit No8 Peter Saili should return to the pack while the debate about Tom McCartney or new man Tim Perry at loosehead prop might be more competitive.

There is a strong case for George Moala to come back to the left wing while most discussion will come about the five-eighths general.

Chris Noakes began the season in that role and was sharp and efficient against the Hurricanes and Cru-saders. He was not so comfortable goalkicking after off-season surgery.

Halfback Piri Weepu is kicking at less than 50 per cent while Baden Kerr was solid in his five-eighths debut against the Bulls and goaled four kicks from five attempts.

The Waratahs have lost midfield back Berrick Barnes to a thumb injury and their halves have not always been crisp but they still have star power through their back four.

- NZ Herald

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