Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Blues must aim up for bottom side, says Kirwan

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan. Photo / Richard Robinson
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan. Photo / Richard Robinson

No excuses, no more leniency, no more tolerance. That rugby trinity should be a mandatory Blues accessory as they eye Friday's meeting with the winless Highlanders.

After the Blues began the season with encouraging wins against the Hurricanes and Crusaders, they have been beaten by the Bulls, Waratahs and Chiefs. Consistent commitment went up a notch against the Chiefs but that and more finesse are needed for the Eden Park visit from the competition cellar-dwellers.

Everyone will skirt the issue but the "desertion" by Tony Woodcock and Ma'a Nonu rankled the Blues and left them vulnerable as they selected this season's squad. If the Blues regain the zest which took them to their opening victories there will be an underlying feeling of sporting justice.

But that will take plenty of planning, execution and some fortune.

That began yesterday as the Blues regrouped for a must win twin-game stretch against the Highlanders and Hurricanes before their second bye.

Coach John Kirwan reported a number of battered bodies after the derby defeat to the Chiefs but no casualties.

He admired his squad's attitude during that match which had been on a different level from other games. Now the Blues needed to tack on more balance to their play while keeping up their attitude.

"That is experience. Understanding the intensity of these games is really important," he said.

They suffered at critical moments against the Chiefs and if they varied their play more and improved areas such as their kick-chase work, then the results would come.

"We need to keep working hard on those things," said Kirwan.

The Blues were heading in the right direction and had had to deal with three straight defeats.

"But we have to say, did we show courage, did we show commitment, did we ever give up? We can improve on that sort of stuff. We have to show it against the Highlanders, we do not have a choice."

It was time for the Blues to show their improvement with a result. They had to execute more accurately.

The opening five games had gone and the Blues had to take those lessons and apply them to their work against the Highlanders.

•A recurring hamstring injury is set to rule Highlanders prop Tony Woodcock out of Friday's

clash against the Blues. Woodcock returned to the starting line-up for last Friday's game against the Reds in Dunedin, but tweaked the hamstring again in the 34-33 loss.

- NZ Herald

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