George Moala, an All Black last year and destined to push hard for an inclusion in Steve Hansen's squad for the June tests and beyond, has finally been given his chance to impress again.

His opportunity will come at centre for the Blues against the Rebels at Eden Park tomorrow, a selection likely to come with a big sigh of relief from a man who probably thought his chances of clawing his way back into the black jersey were disappearing by the week.

Moala started at second-five in the Blues' first four matches of the season, but was a high-profile casualty following his team's error-ridden draw with the Reds in Brisbane on March 19. Since then he watched as Piers Francis was selected ahead of him, and was allowed only cameo roles off the reserves bench against the Jaguares, Chiefs and Sharks.

He scored a try against the Sharks only minutes after replacing Rene Ranger on the Eden Park pitch, and is likely to be the player to benefit the most from his teammate's ruptured ACL.


Moala's directness in that game helped turn the match for the Blues and that's what Tana Umaga has told him to concentrate on now, the coach admitting the 25-year-old's desire to impress for higher honours has been clouding his mind.

Moala scored a try for the All Blacks in Apia last year - his first and only test so far - and must have felt frustrated at being seemingly unable to push for inclusion again.

"We're just telling him to play his game," Umaga said. "He's got a very good game that's his natural game, so go back to that. I think he's trying to please a lot of people - we just need him to perform ... at his best, that's why he's here. Once he gets that we'll be happy. We feel we were getting that off the bench ... he's got an opportunity to start and obviously everyone wants to start. He's got that now and he just has to keep building."

Asked if there was pressure on to impress Hansen, who was present at Blues' training yesterday, Umaga said: "I'm sure there would be - not so much from the selectors but from himself. Everyone wants to be an All Black ... but if you worry about that and not performing ...

"That's how you become an All Black, by performing week-in and week-out - that's what they look for."

Francis has been a safe pair of hands inside Ranger and will continue in that role alongside Moala, with Umaga again emphasising the Englishman's communication skills as crucial outside the relatively inexperienced Ihaia West at No 10.

28 Apr, 2016 3:00pm
4 minutes to read

The departures of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith to France have opened the door to an All Black midfield that has previously been locked up for years - Sonny Bill Williams apart, so the way Charlie Ngatai, Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa have been playing this season would have been an added source of irritation for Moala.

Now he gets his chance against the top team in the Australian conference.