The Blues have more to worry about than who to pick in their playmaking roles. Much more, judging by the way their pack, the supposed strength of the side, was so easily buckled by the Crusaders in their 28-13 defeat on Friday night.

Now coach Tana Umaga has more to think about than he probably anticipated. The pack fell apart at set-piece time, their lineout was a mess - spooked by the ability of Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett and Kieran Read to be in the right place - and, as for the scrum, it wasn't a contest. The Blues didn't look good from the first set and never came to grips with the power, timing and ferocity of the Crusaders' eight.

Without any kind of platform or regular supply of possession, the Blues were disjointed, error-strewn and panicky. Whether making changes at halfback and first-five was the right thing to do, the opportunity to judge never happened. Billy Guyton was under pressure for the entirety of his 50 minutes, having to play off the back foot, scramble the ball and generally put out fires.

That left Matt McGahan in much the same boat and the Blues won't be any further ahead in determining whether the inside pairing, who started in Christchurch, are cut out for this level or not.


What they will have been able to conclude is that they have a serious amount of work to do - be it mental or physical - to ensure they are ready to front the nasty bits of the game each week. The Blues' forwards were aggressive, united and disciplined in their opening game and then so easily blown apart the instant they left the comfort and familiarity of Eden Park.

Everyone knew it would be a tough night having to front a formidable Crusaders pack. It was going to be a huge test for the likes of Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Steven Luatua and Blake Gibson.

The former three have genuine aspirations to play test football this year and they were pitted against the men who are the All Blacks incumbents in their respective jerseys. It was supposed to be a night when the emerging force came through, when the young Blues forwards showed they are ready to turn their franchise around by being the rock on which a winning performance could be built.

Quite how badly they were done over was a surprise. They stuck at their thankless task at least to the bitter end but, individually and collectively, all of the players involved know they were a long way from where they needed to be.

The Crusaders may well turn out to be the best pack in the competition. Joe Moody has transformed from being an enigma into a revved-up, younger version of Tony Woodcock and Owen Franks has obviously trained the house down over the summer and is using all his strength, experience and technical ability to incredible effect.

As good as the Crusaders were, however, the Blues will meet packs that are almost as good and if they are going to feature in this competition, they need to fix their scrum and lineout and be a more significant presence at the collision.