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

Rugby: Umaga gives Blues free rein to attack Bulls

George Moala, who scored two first-half tries against the Crusaders, will be a key attacking force for the Blues against the Bulls. Photo / Photosport
George Moala, who scored two first-half tries against the Crusaders, will be a key attacking force for the Blues against the Bulls. Photo / Photosport

The Bulls are coming and so is rain, a weather forecast for Saturday which should suit a South African team with a traditional dislike of seeing the ball going further than their midfield, but Blues coach Tana Umaga's message to his team appears to be based around one thing - attack.

That's why he has made few changes in the wake of his team's 33-24 defeat to the Crusaders last week. He saw enough in the first half, during which the Blues raced to a 21-5 lead in Christchurch thanks to a fired-up attack, to suggest he and his team are on the right track.

The Bulls will drive their lineout and look to score points or at least win penalties with their mauling at North Harbour Stadium, but Umaga is backing his team to nullify that and also play an up-tempo game that the visitors can't live with.

"We have to believe in what we're doing," Umaga said today after announcing the inclusion of All Black prop Charlie Faumuina to the starting line-up as the only change to his team.

"It doesn't look good weather-wise, but we do enough skill work and we just have to adjust. Teams are going to come back at us, we need to know how to handle that."

He added of giving his players free rein to express themselves with the ball: "That's the style of game we want to be known for. That's what we enjoy - it suits us - so we've just got to keep doing it for the 80 minutes."

Blues skipper and hooker James Parsons said the key to stopping the Bulls' inevitable driving was to work together. "It's just like scrummaging - you need eight men to the pump," he said, and that's a theme Umaga expanded on.

"It's been a constant on our minds," Umaga said of the driving maul. "They've seen the blueprint of how teams have scored against us. We realise that and it's just a case of us being on the same page when it comes to nullifying that. We know what's coming and we're working hard to try to take the sting out of those areas."

There will be pressure the Blues' pack to deliver that bloody-minded attitude, but also, to a different extent, on the backline to turn breaks into points.

There is no doubt that in George Moala, Rieko Ioane, Melani Nanai and Matt Duffie they have a pair of midfielders and two wings who can create problems for the Bulls defence, but they have to work for it and work for it for 80 minutes.

"We understand where we are on the table and where we are on the season - it is only early, but we've got to start turning those [opportunities] around now otherwise it is only more pressure for us," Umaga said.

"They've got some X-factor in their side that we have to be aware of. It's going to take hard work, it won't just happen by itself. You have to think about how they're thinking coming over here - we're actually in the same boat. We're all looking for success and they're probably looking at this game thinking they can win and we've got to do the same."

Blues team to play the Bulls at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday, kick-off 7.35pm is: Michael Collins, Matt Duffie, Rieko Ioane, George Moala, Melani Nanai, Piers Francis, Augustine Pulu, Jerome Kaino, Blake Gibson, Jimmy Tupou, Patrick Tuipulotu, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons (c), Pauliasi Manu.
Reserves: Matt Moulds, Ofa Tu'ungafasi or Sam Prattley, Sione Mafileo, Akira Ioane, Murphy Taramai, Sam Nock, Ihaia West, TJ Faiane.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 26 May 2017 11:44:51 Processing Time: 478ms