There's a lot to like about the side the Blues have picked to play the Highlanders.

There are big men to handle the set-piece; ball carriers across the park; direct runners, big tacklers and plenty of men with the ability to produce a touch of magic. But there is a missing piece, or at least an element that no one can be sure is there.

Where is the control and direction going to come from?

There's so much weaponry and yet no proven commander at the helm who can use all that is available. This is nothing new to the Blues - they have struggled to find a dominant tactical general for much of the past decade.


For much of that period, though, a lack of tactical control was just one of many issues.

That's why the these next few weeks, months even, are so important for Ihaia West.

He made it to the Blues in 2014 through the back door - coming in as injury cover for Baden Kerr and then winning a contract the following year.

Since becoming a full-time member of the Blues, he has been a middle of the road performer. He has never obviously set his team alight, nor has he appeared to be out of his depth.

He has chugged along - doing enough to continue to be of interest but not so much that he has established himself as a must-have. He owes his continued selection as much to the lack of alternative options as to his own contribution.

The next month or so is, therefore, going to be huge in the context of his career. Now is the time for West to take a grip of what is clearly a good Blues team.

Tomorrow at Eden Park, he needs to steer the Blues into the right places on the field. The pace of local derbies is frenetic and relentless and it has to be factored in that the Highlanders are coming to Auckland on the back of two defeats and serious motivation to avoid making it three.

The key to winning these intense games is control, discipline and accuracy. That starts with the forwards and their ability to win the ball and deliver it on the front foot.

That was a problem for the Blues last week against the Chiefs and coach Tana Umaga has made it clear this week that the first priority for his players is to get the ball and look after it.

"They put pressure on us in the forward pack and we can't get our game going if we can't get set piece, so that's been a big work-on for us," he said.

"We have to get into our structures that we want to play but depending on the weather, that could be different to what the tactics are."

If the forwards can do their bit, then West will be asked to use possession wisely - to show he can mix his game up with the right balance of kicking, running and passing.

He'll be asked to pull the right levers and find a way to use the running power of George Moala and Rieko Ioane in the midfield and also find space for Rene Ranger to exploit.