Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Ihaia West - more effort needed at Blues

Ihaia West prepares to line up a shot at goal in the opening match of Super Rugby season between the Blues and the Highlanders. Photo / Jason Oxenham.
Ihaia West prepares to line up a shot at goal in the opening match of Super Rugby season between the Blues and the Highlanders. Photo / Jason Oxenham.

Ihaia West, a man in the spotlight last week after being dropped to the bench days after an excellent performance in his team's first match of the season, will probably find himself front and centre again tomorrow no matter what team coach Tana Umaga names to play the Hurricanes.

His selection at No10 ahead of Matt McGahan is expected but by no means guaranteed; such is Umaga's current policy of giving his extended squad a run in the early matches.

It would, however, surprise if West wasn't reinstated there for the match at Eden Park on Friday, and clearly that is what the 24-year-old is hoping for.

But he said he was just as keen to see his teammates lift their overall performance at their spiritual home after they were brought back down to earth with a thud in Christchurch after a promising start to the season.

The forwards were clearly second best in the set pieces, but that's not all. West said one of the focuses of the team's debrief following the 28-13 loss was the need for every player to increase their intensity across the field. Simple stuff, really, but even professionals need the occasional reminder.

"The review has been good - we have seen a lot of stuff we can work on," West said. "The main thing is probably just efforts - everyone across the board working that much harder to get in the right positions so we can use the ball, and work a bit harder on defence so we can get in the right spots to put the pressure on."

Tevita Li's late try was one of the few highlights for the Blues, who enjoyed only 31 per cent of the ball and made only 189m in possession compared with the Crusaders' 420m.

It goes without saying that improvements will be required for the clash against the Hurricanes, last year's beaten finalists who are better than their two-loss start to the season suggests.

West, brought in part-way through the 2014 season under John Kirwan, and who has been in and out of the starting line-up ever since, was diplomatic when asked how he took the news about what many would class as a demotion following the win over the Highlanders.

"It's always disappointing when you don't start," he said. "But we have plenty of depth in the squad this year. It wasn't a huge surprise. Matty and I had been battling it out all pre-season."

He was also disappointed that he couldn't deliver a significant impact after running on to AMI with about 30 minutes remaining last Friday. The bench is required to bring a spark to their side but, with the Crusaders putting the Blues in a headlock through their set piece domination, West and co were always on the back foot.

"Most of the time we were on defence which was pretty tough," he said. "We tried to make an impact and we were disappointed we couldn't pick the team up when we got on. We probably didn't use the wind well enough later on in the second half either."

The little Hawkes Bay first-five said he was becoming increasingly comfortable at the Blues; now he just wants another opportunity to cement his place.

"With it being my third year here now as you spend more time in the environment you get more confidence I suppose so I'm just looking to try to use that confidence to try to run the team and run the right plays and get the team going in the right direction."

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