Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Away record nothing to scoff at for JK's Blues

Blues back George Moala offloads against the Reds at eden park on friday night. Photo / Getty Images
Blues back George Moala offloads against the Reds at eden park on friday night. Photo / Getty Images

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan has put the onus on his players to look at how they prepare for matches as he seeks to overturn their atrocious away form in order to beat the Chiefs in New Plymouth next Friday.

After Kirwan's side made the Reds turn various shades of pink during their outstanding five-tries-to-two 44-14 victory at Eden Park, the attention went straight back on the Blues' record away from their fortress - one victory in a season and a half, and that came at the start of last year.

Kirwan made a quip about being more disciplined at the buffet table - travelling teams are presented with tables often groaning under the weight of breakfast, lunch and dinner - and there was a serious message behind it.

His players must take more responsibility for their actions when trying to mirror their impressive home record - five from five at Eden Park this year - on the road.

"It's about individuals understanding we need to find the same mental application that we do at home," he said. "You can't replicate it away from home - it's not your bed, you're sleeping in air conditioning - you've just got to make sure you're aware you're playing away and get on with it.

"Each individual has to have a plan in place for themselves so that they each get up and perform."

Playing the Chiefs away isn't easy for any team, but the Blues might feel they have a slight advantage playing at Yarrow Stadium, rather than Waikato Stadium. It's the first time the Chiefs have played there under their new arrangement with the Taranaki Rugby Union and there will be intrigue as to how they cope.

Watch: Rugby Highlights: Blues 44 Reds 14

With the New Zealand conference so tight - five points separate the top-ranked Chiefs from the bottom-ranked Blues - every inter-conference match is becoming crucial. Injuries to Kirwan's midfield threaten to stall momentum, but George Moala impressed against the Reds and is an able replacement for Jackson Willison, who tore a hamstring.

With Francis Saili also facing a lengthy time on the sidelines with an ankle problem, Kirwan needs at least one replacement back, and will look to the Blues development team for reinforcements. Charles Piutau, who played the final minutes of Friday's match at centre, would not be a candidate for the No13 jersey, at least in the short term, Kirwan said.

"We considered it, for sure, we're still looking at that, but he's just going too well at fullback. I think the back three [Piutau, Frank Halai and Lolagi Visinia] are really starting to show some stuff."

- APNZ

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