Preview: Force v Blues

Date published: May 20 2016

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The Blues will hope to get their season back on track after a crushing defeat in Johannesburg last weekend when they travel to the Force.

The Perth outfit are looking to give their home fans something to cheer about after being winless at their nib Stadium ground this term.

The Blues were completely outplayed last weekend with assistant coach Glenn Moore painting a clear picture of how the team is feeling.

"There's a fair amount of embarrassment about how we played, so it won't take a lot to get a mindset and attitude shift," he said.

The home side are coming off a big away win against the Sunwolves and a subsequent bye and will try not let their time off curb their momentum moving forward.

The Blues have a competent backline and will hope to utilise the speed and skill within their ranks. Tevita Li, a star performer of last season has yet to be used to his full potential, the same can be said for George Moala.

The Force will keep in mind that the Blues have won only one of their last 14 games away from home and hopefully give them some much needed confidence.

The last time these teams met: A high scoring crowd-pleaser in Auckland ended 41-24 to the home side. Both teams collected a four-try bonus-point. The Blues scored five tries via a Melani Nanai double, as well as Steven Luatua, Akira Ioane and reserve fly-half Ihaia West going over the whitewash. The Force had not scored a single point by the end of the first-half but then prop Pek Cowan, scrum-half Ryan Louwrens and back-rowers Matt Hodgson and Ben McCalman all crossed on the day.

Players to watch: The Force will welcome back the likes of Ben Tapuai who provides some experience in a youthful Force team. The hosts will also look to American-born Marcel Brache after the winger scored a hat-trick in Tokyo in the first 20 minutes of play.

George Moala could be a threat to the Force considering that he has developed a knack for offloads this season. Ihaia West's kicking boots have been prolific this year, considering he has kicked the most penalties in the competition. If the Force's discipline is not up to scratch they could pay dearly for it.

Team news: Josh Bekhuis starts at lock as he replaces Hoani Matenga in the five jersey, while scrum-half Bryan Hall is relegated to the bench as Billy Guyton is promoted to the starting line-up. Melani Nanai will move from wing to full-back to make way for Matt Duffie on the wing.

The only change to the Perth-based side is veteran centre Ben Tapuai making a start at 13.

Form: Tana Umaga's first tenure as head coach went from mediocre to disastrous after his team capitulated against a determined Lions outfit in Johannesburg, 43-5. Looking past this result, the Blues had a three-match winning streak beforehand. The Force are coming off their second win of the season against the Sunwolves in Tokyo. Before their away win, they lost seven games in a row and have yet to win a thome this season.

Prediction: A Force victory last weekend is not indicative of a Perth revivial, the Blues should grind out a win away. Blues to beat Force by 7.

Previous results:

2015: Blues won 41-24 in Auckland
2014: Blues won 40-14 in Perth
2012: Blues won 32-9 in Auckland
2011: Blues and Force drew 22-22 in Perth
2010: Blues won 38-17 in Auckland
2009: Blues won 25-19 in Perth
2008: Force won 27-17 in North Harbour
2007: Blues won 33-6 in Perth
2006: Blues won 39-8 in Auckland

The teams:

Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Ian Prior, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Guy Millar, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Francois van Wyk
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Rory Walton, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Semisi Masirewa

Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Billy Guyton, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Sam Prattley
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Hoani Matenga, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Matt McGahan, 23 Male Sa’u

Date: Saturday 21 May 2016
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 17:45 local (09:45 GMT)
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant Referees: Rohan Hoffmann, Jordan Way
TMO: Peter Marshall

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