Planet Rugby

Preview: Blues v Waratahs

23rd April 2014 17:00

Share:

Israel Folau Waratahs v Blues

Contained: Israel Folau

Dealing with off-field distractions and poor on-field performances, there's no respite for the Blues as they host the Waratahs on Friday.

Benji Marshall has left Auckland and Union behind nearly three months into the new season, but the Blues should forget about him swiftly. There are more important issues to handle.

Last week against the Hurricanes the effort levels of a squad packed with talent and international caps bordered on embarrassing.

Ma'a Nonu went AWOL, as did Tony Woodcock, players that the Blues need to provide more inspiration than they must think they offer by simply turning up.

Defensively the Blues were a shambles, particularly at the end of the second half, where with the game within their reach at 27-20, they burned out.

Offensively they lacked enough go-forward or spark to consistently trouble the 'Canes line, which is saying something against a team whose defence isn't exactly regarded as ironclad.

Picking Chris Noakes in an attempt to tactically outmanoeuvre the Hurricanes essentially turned into feeding their hosts possession, from which they finished with five tries and should have had six had it not been for the arm of Dane Coles scraping the touchline.

Defensive mistakes can be forgiven, just, but a lack of fight and obvious leadership from players this good is unacceptable. As a result the Blues are now eleventh, have won three of their eight matches and are only one point ahead of the Highlanders at the bottom of the New Zealand Conference - who have two games in hand.

The comments of Piri Weepu, who returns to the Blues bench for this week after his heart surgery, are telling.

"The boys need to look at themselves and make sure they're making the right calls when they look at themselves in the mirror," said Weepu.

"We've played about 20 minutes in total this year, of good footy.

"When you're playing in a Super comp like this that's not good enough, so I guess the boys just need to figure out what they want to do as individuals for this team and everyone's got to get on the same page."

Working as a group isn't an issue for the Waratahs. Michael Cheika's side bounced back from tough losses to the Western Force and Sharks by taking down the Bulls on their return to Sydney last weekend.

It took Israel Folau all of 28 seconds to mark his return to the side with his ninth try of the season, proving how much the 'Tahs have missed him.

In the week that Marshall left Union it's worth noting just how ground-breaking Folau has been.

He gives the Waratahs an extra edge that other teams lack - and that's the difference between your average Super Rugby side and a title contender.

The Waratahs are far from the finished product but sit one point off the top of a competitive Australian Conference. Statistically they are one of the best attacking teams in the competition.

If there is a weakness in their game it lies in the scrum, which holds only an 80 percent success rate, but that is still better than the Blues' 77 percent.

What has been so pleasing about the Waratahs is how individual players have raised their game. Will Skelton and Jacques Potgeiter are huge physical specimens that do not lack skill. Bernard Foley has made the fly-half jersey his own.

If the 'Tahs are serious contenders, then matches such as these against a misfiring Blues outfit should be targeted for maximum points.

Form: The Blues have lost their last two matches either side of their bye week, after achieving back-to-back wins in Rounds 6 and 7. The Waratahs began the season with two wins in a row but haven't repeated that feat since.

Previous results:

2013: Waratahs won 30-27 in Sydney
2011: Blues won 26-13 in Auckland
2011: Blues won 31-17 in Auckland
2010: Waratahs won 39-32 in Sydney

Prediction: Given how the Blues have been uncontrollably shipping points in recent weeks, a Waratahs victory and by some distance with a try for Folau seems an obvious call. Waratahs by ten.

The teams:

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Lolagi Visinia, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Steven Luatua, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Pita Ahki.

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Dave Dennis (c), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements (one to be omitted): 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Pat McCutcheon, 20 Wycliff Palu, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Matt Carraro, 24 Stephen Hoiles.

Date: Friday, April 25
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 17:35 (local, 05:35 GMT)
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Mike Lash (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 5
Northampton vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 6
Saracens vs Wasps14:00
Sale vs Bath14:00
Leicester vs Newcastle15:00
London Irish vs Harlequins16:30
Sunday , September 7
London Welsh vs Exeter14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 6
New Zealand vs Argentina08:35
Australia vs South Africa11:05
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 5
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Munster vs Edinburgh19:35
Saturday , September 6
Scarlets vs Ulster14:40
Connacht vs Newport Gwent D'gons17:00
Glasgow vs Leinster17:15
Sunday , September 7
Zebre vs Cardiff Blues17:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 5
Montpellier vs Castres20:45
Saturday , September 6
Brive vs Toulouse14:45
Clermont Auvergne vs Racing Metro Paris17:00
Lyon vs Oyonnax18:30
Stade Francais vs Bayonne18:30
Grenoble vs La Rochelle18:30
Toulon vs Bordeaux-Begles20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 5
Western Province vs Eastern Province Kings19:10
Saturday , September 6
Cheetahs vs Pumas15:00
Sharks vs Griquas17:05
Blue Bulls vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki 41 - 3 Bay Of PlentyTaranaki vs Bay Of Plenty Report
Auckland 16 - 16 TasmanAuckland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle 37 - 25 ToulouseLa Rochelle vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 37 - 23 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 33 - 6 Stade Francais
Castres 30 - 6 BayonneCastres vs Bayonne Report
Racing Metro Paris 17 - 10 ToulonRacing Metro Paris vs Toulon Report
Lyon 24 - 6 Brive
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 25 - 36 CheetahsGriquas vs Cheetahs Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 41 LionsEastern Province Kings vs Lions Report
Blue Bulls 18 - 23 Western ProvinceBlue Bulls vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Counties Manukau 21 - 27 Hawkes BayCounties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay Report
Southland 22 - 33 Otago
North Harbour 16 - 22 WaikatoNorth Harbour vs Waikato Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne 20 - 21 MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 32 - 22 SharksPumas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Wellington 21 - 27 ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Report
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury 48 - 3 NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Report
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00