The Brumbies will be hoping for another good outing from David Pocock against the Blues in Auckland on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
The Blues, who produced a plucky performance against the Chiefs last weekend, will be desperate to claim their first win of 2015 and move off the foot of the combined Vodacom Super Rugby log.
It won't be easy, though. The Brumbies are second on the combined log and have been boosted by the return of Pocock, who has been hampered by knee injuries over the past two seasons and endured a difficult start to the first part of the current campaign.
But against the Cheetahs in Canberra last weekend, the former Wallabies captain reminded us why Robbie Deans branded him as one of the best he has coached. The 27-year-old won three turnovers, made 11 tackles, ran 48m and made 14 carries in round eight and a similar, if not better, performance could spell more trouble for the luckless Blues.
The Blues lead the way with 11 overall victories and nine defeats against the Brumbies, but have lost the last two meetings between the sides, while also suffering seven losses on the trot this year.
They will see this match as an opportunity to break that drought, as their competitiveness is unquestionable. Once they start taking their chances and improving their finishing, they could cause a number of upsets – starting with the Brumbies.
Kirwan has made four changes, with three of those in the pack where hooker James Parsons, lock Patrick Tuipulotu and flank Luke Braid will start. In the backline, Melani Nanai comes onto the right wing with Tevita Li dropping out of the match-day squad altogether.
Stephen Larkham has kept faith in the starting XV that overcame the Cheetahs, and made just one change to the bench where prop JP Smith returns ahead of Allan Alaalatoa.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Blues 11, Brumbies 9
In Auckland: Blues 7, Brumbies 5
STATS AND FACTS
– The last eight meetings between the Blues and Brumbies have followed a pattern of two victories by two defeats for the Auckland-based side. If this run were to continue, they would win this game.
– The Brumbies have won the last two meetings between the sides, but have never won three on the bounce against the Blues.
– They Blues are currently on a nine-match losing streak; their worst ever run of form.
– The Blues have averaged more rucks lost per game than any other side this season (5.3).
– The Brumbies have forced a worse ruck success rate (91%) from their opponents than any other team.
– The Brumbies have managed more opening quarter tries (seven), than any other side this season, while the Blues have scored the joint-fewest (one).
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Blues||Ihaia West (59)||Jerome Kaino (3)||Charles Piutau (430)||Brendon O'Connor (51)|
|Brumbies||Christian Leali'ifano (75)||Ben Alexander (3)||Robbie Coleman (356)||Jarrad Butler (73)|
Blues – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 George Moala, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Dan Bowden, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jerome Kaino (c), 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Steven Luatua, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Francis Saili.
Brumbies – 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Henry Speight, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Blake Enever, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 JP Smith, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Ita Vaea, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Lausii Taliauli, 23. Nigel Ah Wong.
Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty Images