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'People thought I wanted to be a ball-running, crash-ball Ma'a, Sonny sort of person': Blues midfielder comfortable with new role

By Sam Smith
Harry Plummer and Otere Black. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

There’s something slightly old school about this year’s Blues backline.


Yes, the wingers are fast and the halfbacks are nippy, while Stephen Perofeta’s role as a second playmaker in the No 15 jersey has become part and parcel for the modern game in New Zealand.

But it’s in the midfield – specifically in the No 12 jersey – where things get really interesting.

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Ross Karl of Sky Sport NZ, former Auckland Blues hooker James Parsons and Canterbury Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall discuss the key figures for the Highlanders in their dismantling of the Chiefs.

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Ross Karl of Sky Sport NZ, former Auckland Blues hooker James Parsons and Canterbury Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall discuss the key figures for the Highlanders in their dismantling of the Chiefs.

While it’s become common to see a massive behemoth carting the ball up in the middle of the park – think Manu Tuilagi or Hunter PaisamiHarry Plummer operates more like the 12s of old, your Aaron Maugers and your Luke McAlisters.

Plummer, effectively, is operating as a second five-eighth.

“I had played quite a lot of representative rugby, and NZ Schools, at second five-eighths, so I’ve played a bit there and talking to the coaches they’ve seen a rise in my game at 12,” Plummer said at Blues training this week.

With TJ Faiane still nursing an injury, Plummer could be set for an extended stint in the midfield, allowing the Blues to operate with three playmakers – assuming Stephen Perofeta or young Zarn Sullivan is perched at fullback.

The set-up gives the Blues plenty of kicking options across the park as well as plenty of guiding voices.


It’s a fairly harmonious set-up now, a year on from when the trio first trotted out together against the Bulls in last year’s Super Rugby competition.

Plummer has had time to settle into the role which, although not unfamiliar to him, he wasn’t necessarily 100 per cent comfortable with. That’s not a surprise, given the men that preceded him in the Blues No 12 jersey – the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Ma’a Nonu.

“I think something I fell into early on was thinking that people thought I wanted to be a ball-running, crash-ball Ma’a, Sonny sort of person, but that’s not my game. It’s about being able to adapt. I’m picked for a reason and, [that means] backing the skills I’ve been picked for.

“We’ve got a nice flow of dual/triple playmaker set-up at the moment. My role is to be able to put guys like Rieko [Ioane], Mark [Telea] and Caleb [Clarke] into spaces.”


The Blues will name their side to take on the Highlanders tomorrow. Their Sunday afternoon match-up marks the Blues’ first home game of the season and could be played in front of a bumper crowd – should the NZ government decide it’s safe to open up major sporting events in Auckland to the wider public.

The match is set to kick off at 3:35pm NZT and will be available to stream via RugbyPass with a Super Rugby Aotearoa subscription.


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Mzilikazi 1 hours ago
Is the Six Nations balance of power shifting?

An hugely interesting article. Thanks, Nick. Some seem to find this a poor 6 N, but I think it has thrown up a number of fascinating contests. Ofc the falling away of France is always going to be a major point of discussion. The loss of both half backs has hurt them for sure. But they should still be better. Both France and England could easily have been sitting with three defeats right now, especially France. In England’s case, I thought the try Mitchell scored against the Italians was lucky, as he was clearly held in the tackle , but carried on to the line without releasing and regaining the ball. The English blitz defence being talked about so much is still a work in progress, and Ireland, with their powerful men in both backs and forwards can do damage there. I also thought in last weekends game against Scotland, England were pushingtheir luck at the breakdowns, turning them into a chaotic brawl. A different referee may not see it their way so much against Ireland and France. Ireland’s front row does concern me. The starters have not always looked in control, and Andrew Porter is a worry, as he will now be very closely watched in these next two games. Tadgh Furlong is not the player he was at the set piece, and will need to be on his mettle against the very streetwise Genge at Twickenham. I really enjoyed the stats heavy approach in this article. So much that passes one by are brought starkly into the light of day. Finn Russell’s deadly accuracy, the significance of the Welsh backrow duo, Italy’s attacking drop of under a new coach, as they are coming much closer to winning in these games this year.

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