Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Hall can stand out against new team

Blues halfback Bryn Hall gets the opportunity to shine against the Crusaders, the team he will play for next season, tomorrow night at Eden Park. Picture / Jason Oxenham
Blues halfback Bryn Hall gets the opportunity to shine against the Crusaders, the team he will play for next season, tomorrow night at Eden Park. Picture / Jason Oxenham

Adding a sense of intrigue to the traditional grudge match between the Blues and Crusaders at Eden Park tomorrow night is the impending departure of halfback Bryn Hall to the southerners.

Hall, out of favour and on the reserves' bench for the Blues tomorrow, will take advantage of Andy Ellis' retirement from Super Rugby and look to resurrect his career at the Crusaders.

With Augustine Pulu set to arrive at the Blues from the Chiefs next season, and Billy Guyton slipping ahead in the pecking order, there is no room for Hall at the Blues but he will back himself to thrive in Christchurch alongside Mitchell Drummond.

The 24-year-old hasn't reached the heights that were perhaps expected of him after a breakout 2014 when he overtook Piri Weepu for the No9 jersey. Then, he was a menace with the ball, but injury, including a fractured foot, hit his ambitions.

The development of Drummond, 22, at the Crusaders has been reasonably rapid but he has been forced to take more of a back seat this season because of the form of Ellis.

Drummond will likely be the No1 halfback next season but Hall will be given every chance to challenge him.

Guyton started for the Blues against the Crusaders - for whom he played for a season - in round two in Christchurch when coach Tana Umaga's men were soundly beaten up front and gets another opportunity after starting in last weekend's victory over the Force in Perth.

That 17-13 win at nib Stadium - in which the Blues were clinging on to the lead on their own line at the final whistle - contrasted with the Crusaders' 29-10 victory over the Waratahs in the rain in Christchurch.

They thrived despite the difficult conditions, and the Blues were noticeably poor in the rain in Johannesburg recently when they lost to the Lions.

Umaga's men have also been suffering from jetlag, and having trained on the grass yesterday for the first time this week, are in danger of being underdone.

"We had meetings [this week] and the guys were still yawning because they were having trouble sleeping - which is a bit of a rarity when our boys have trouble sleeping," Umaga said. "[But] they just have to do it. Everyone goes through this and it's just our turn."

Umaga said he was confident his forwards could get to grips with an in-form pack which won't be disadvantaged too much by the absence of Sam Whitelock due to a hamstring strain.

"The forward pack have talked about it," he said. "They know they have to stand up this weekend. It's a pretty formidable front row and forward pack that the Crusaders have. We remember the game we had down there when they gave us a bit of a lesson, so there's plenty of motivation for us."

- NZ Herald

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