After two narrow losses in the last three games, the Blues are turning inwards for their focus for the Super Rugby Aotearoa match against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Sunday.
Blues coach Leon MacDonald believes his side has created sufficient opportunities to prosper but lacked accuracy in implementation and our discipline.
“Our focus is on us,” he said. “It is about us being more accurate so we can take advantage of the chances we are creating. We show it on the training field, and we need to take that focus and that confidence into the game.
“We have to front-up at set-piece, be physical but disciplined at the collisions, stay in the contest and trust our skills. At times we make the game look sublime and other times we switch off.
“I know and believe that this group can produce a performance that they and our fans can be proud of.”
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All Blacks Karl Tu’inukuafe and Nepo Laulala start in the front row with Kurt Eklund returning from suspension at hooker with plenty to prove.
The experienced Gerard Cowley-Tuioti and Christchurch product Sam Darry are paired again in the second row with skipper Patrick Tuiopultu still nursing an injury, while Blake Gibson joins All Blacks Dalton Papalii and Hoskins Sotutu in an exciting loose forward trio.
The major changes come in the backline, with Harry Plummer entrusted the No 10 jersey and a fully-fit Tanielu Tele’a – the star of the Blues’ 2019 campaign – injected into the midfield.
With stand-in skipper Tom Robinson unavailable with injury, the captaincy will be shared by All Blacks Papalii and Rieko Ioane.
There is plenty of spark to come off the bench with All Blacks Ofa Tuungafasi and Akira Ioane joined by the experience Finlay Christie and Otere Black.
They are matched with some eye-catching young prospects in hooker Soane Vikena, a star of last week’s Under 20 Super tournament and mobile lock and former NZ U20 rep Taine Plumtree, who are set for their Super Rugby debuts.
Blues: Stephen Perofeta, Mark Telea, Rieko Ioane, Tanielu Tele’a, Caleb Clarke, Harry Plummer, Jonathan Ruru, Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii, Blake Gibson, Sam Darry, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Nepo Laulala, Kurt Eklund, Karl Tu’inukuafe. Reserves: Soane Vikena, Marcel Renata, Ofa Tuungafasi, Taine Plumtree, Akira Ioane, Finlay Christie, Otere Black, AJ Lam.
– with Blues Rugby
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