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Preview: Blues v Brumbies

24th May 2013 07:52

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Charles Piutau

At the back: Charles Piutau

The Brumbies will hope to end a two-game losing run when they run out in Auckland against a Blues side also looking to bounce back from defeat.

Luckily for the visitors, the Reds slipped up at the Cheetahs last weekend so they remain at the top the Australian conference with only four matches remaining in their Super Rugby season. The Reds meanwhile have just three games left in the tightest of battles to finish at the local summit.

In New Zealand the task looks a tad tougher for the Blues, who are currently seven points off the pace-setting Chiefs, with the Crusaders also chasing. In fact, the Blues' loss to the latter outfit has dented their hopes and they will now know that things have gotten to the win or bust stage.

That pressure has seemingly got to assistant coach Sir Graham Henry, who was clearly not a happy man after a TMO decision ruled that wing Frank Halai hadn't grounded the ball against the Crusaders. Henry also got stuck into the decisions at scrum time as he felt Wyatt Crockett "got away with murder".

While there have been some recent calls that raise an eyebrow, World Cup winner Henry could have better addressed his point instead of raising it in a press conference.

His charges this week show a handful of changes as Francis Saili returns in place of Jackson Willison while the injured Steven Luatua finds his jersey on the back of Brendon O'Connor. There could be one final change to the pack should Angus Ta'avao not recover.

Last week's 23-3 loss at the Crusaders will have stung but it was a lesson for this young squad that they will want to put right against the Brumbies. Speaking of Jake White's outfit, they will also have been disappointed with how they went were defeated on Saturday.

This week they're missing George Smith so Colby Faingaa starts while it will be a big opportunity for Nic White to push his Wallaby case to head coach Robbie Deans. Joe Tomane, Ben Mowen and Christian Lealiifano will also want to put in good showings.

International subplots aside, the quest for play-off spots heats up in this clash at Eden Park, with Charles Piutau versus Jesse Mogg a tasty match-up at 15 as both are in fine form.

Prediction: While the away defence is strong, the hosts will land more points. Blues by 5!

The teams:

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Brendon O'Connor, 5 Ali Williams (c), 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao/Sam Prattley, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley/Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Kane Barrett, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Jackson Willison.

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Colby Faingaa, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Clyde Rathbone.

Date: Saturday, May 25
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 (08:35 BST, 07.35 GMT)
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jonathon White (New Zealand), Nick Briant (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

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Super Rugby Table
PosTeamPPts
1Sharks727
2Brumbies825
3Chiefs724
4Western Force823
5Hurricanes821
6Waratahs720
7Highlanders719
8Crusaders718
9Bulls818
10Lions816
11Blues816
12Reds816
13Melbourne Rebels816
14Cheetahs89
15Stormers76