Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Pisi change not due to Barrett's defence, say Hurricanes

Tactics rather than form is the reason for Tusi Pisi's elevation to the Hurricanes No 10 jersey for Saturday's game against the Blues at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images.
Tactics rather than form is the reason for Tusi Pisi's elevation to the Hurricanes No 10 jersey for Saturday's game against the Blues at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images.

Tactics rather than form is the reason for Tusi Pisi's elevation to the Hurricanes No 10 jersey for Saturday's game against the Blues at Eden Park.

Pisi, who has played 13 internationals for Samoa, has played from the bench during the final 20 minutes of the Hurricanes games recently, slotting in at first-five with Barrett going to fullback.

Hurricanes assistant coach Alama Ieremia said the coaching staff wanted to see how that combination would work from the start of a game.

The backline reshuffle means regular custodian Andre Taylor has been forced to the bench, but Ieremia said the change had nothing to do with Taylor's form.

"Andre's been fantastic. He's had pretty solid games as of late, but this is more a tactical approach to how we look to this game coming up,'' Ieremia said.

Another theory that Ieremia quashed was that the decision was made in a bid to tighten up the Hurricanes' leaky defence through the inside channels where Barrett has struggled at times this season.

"I think that's probably what people will talk about the most, but to be perfectly honest Beaudie's been fantastic in that area of late in terms of making his tackles from set piece,'' Ieremia said.

"So he's improved, but Tusi does give us a little bit of assurance, but from an attack point of view it's a different approach than Beaudie as well. So it's a bit of a change up on both attack and D.''

There's no doubting that Pisi is the better defender at first-five, while Barrett's accurate kicking game from fullback will be valuable as they look to turn around a big Blues forward pack.

"Tusi's been around a while now so probably some of his tactical kicking and awareness in the back field is probably an area that he has had a lot of experience in,'' Ieremia said.

"He's certainly added that value for us when he's come on so we've got to respect the Blues, they've got some pretty potent options at the back and right through the whole backline. So we've got to make sure that we get the balance right in terms of directing the team and also hopefully negating some of their attack.''

The Hurricanes will again be without No 8 Victor Vito due to a calf injury, while Jeremy Thrush is still out with an ankle problem.

Meanwhile, the Blues will be without the suspended George Moala and injured Charlie Faumuina.

Rene Ranger will push out to the wing in Moala's absence and Angus Ta'avao will start at tighthead prop in place Faumuina.

The fifth-placed Hurricanes have won their past four games, while the Blues are in seventh spot on the Super Rugby ladder, one win outside a playoff spot.

Hurricanes: Beauden Barrett, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (c), Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Tusi Pisi, TJ Perenara; Faifili Levave, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Jason Eaton, Mark Reddish, Ben May, Motu Matu'u, Ben Franks/Reg Goodes. Reserves: Dane Coles/Ash Dixon, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, James Broadhurst, Jack Lam, Chris Smylie, Reynold Lee-Lo, Andre Taylor.

Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Francis Saili, Jackson Willison, Rene Ranger, Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu; Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams (c), Culum Retallick, Angus Ta'avao, James Parsons, Tom McCartney. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Anthony Boric, Brendon O'Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Baden Kerr, Albert Nikoro.

- APNZ

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