Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Odd timing for Umaga to rotate side

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Bryn Hall and Ihaia West must be bemused about that relegation after their solid start to the series. Photo / Getty
Bryn Hall and Ihaia West must be bemused about that relegation after their solid start to the series. Photo / Getty

Selection rotation has arrived quickly for the Blues.

They delivered a pleasing start to their 2016 campaign beating the champion Highlanders and coach Tana Umaga has rewarded that work by changing five of the starting side.

He may not stop there either with former Melbourne Storm rep Matt Duffie picked to begin at fullback if he's fit.

Confirmed new starters are Quentin MacDonald, captain Jerome Kaino who returns from suspension, Billy Guyton and Matt McGahan in the halves and Rene Ranger at centre.

All this may be part of a pre-season strategy Umaga mapped out so he could assess players he thought were similar in ability. There may be other reasons but it is hard to come up with a strong answer.

Perhaps Umaga has some concept about some players being better starters than finishers, maybe he feels others are best suited to tangle with the Crusaders.

No matter what Bryn Hall and Ihaia West say about their move to the bench, at best they must be bemused about that relegation after their solid start to the series.

For too long, the Blues have struggled to find a solid fulcrum and there have been regular glitches in the 8-9-10 combinations at the core of their ambition.

Hall and West have some way to go but last Friday at Eden Park they hinted they were on the right path and getting more in sync with their combination and decisions.

Let's see how they go when they have to travel to Christchurch and guide the side around an unfamiliar ground against stronger rivals like Kieran Read and Andy Ellis close to the set-piece.

Think again. This is a new era and chop and change is the new Blues format.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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