• Preview: Hurricanes vs Blues

    A try-fest would appear to be on the cards when the Hurricanes and Blues face off in Wellington on Friday.

    Mark Hammett and John Kirwan's sides have each won three of their first seven matches, suffering four losses and arriving tied on log points with 16.

    Both are in the top six for tries scored this season with 21 and 20 respectively; the running threat possessed by both teams in the back three making this worth tuning in for alone.

    Andre Taylor was the main man in 2012 for the Canes and since his return to the starting line-up he has opened up their attack, working behind the ever-improving Beauden Barrett. Barrett is the real deal, with pace, playmaking ability and composure beyond his years all combining to make him the All Blacks probable start against England later this year, with Dan Carter on sabbatical and Aaron Cruden a fitness doubt.

    Julian Savea and Alapati Leiua have both made the most clean breaks this season with 11, tied with Israel Folau, and have also beaten the most defenders (27 and 26), giving you an indication of their running threat, which is bad news for the Blues.

    Often criticised this season for their lacklustre defensive displays – conceding around 28 points a game – the Blues have to front up and combat guys like Savea if they want to pick up their fourth win of the season.

    The Canes' attack has been so effective this season that they find themselves in the top two stats for carrying, metres made and defenders beaten. The latter stat isn't even close, with their 170 victims miles ahead of the next best from the Highlanders with 138.

    Where the Canes fall short, as with the Blues, is with their defence. A poor tackling success percentage of 85.1 is why their attacking exploits haven't been better rewarded so far.

    The Canes' 80% success rate at the scrum will be good news for the Blues, who arrive in Wellington with an All Blacks front row following the return of Keven Mealamu and Charlie Faumuina. If the Blues can get the squeeze on in this area and exploit Reggie Goodes, who comes in for the injured Ben Franks, then increased territory and keeping the Hurricanes back in their own half may lead to a win. Fielding a back row of Jerome Kaino, Luke Braid and Steven Luatua certainly gives them an advantage at the breakdown.

    Their lineout has been one of the worst in the tournament, a burden which Mealamu's return should alleviate.

    Given the right amount of possession, the Blues are no blunt knife, but the selection of Chris Noakes is telling as Kirwan appears to look for more control.

    Hurricanes – 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.
    Subs: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 John Schwalger, 19 Blade Thomson, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Tim Bateman, 23 Matt Proctor.

    Blues – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 George Moala, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Lolagi Visinia, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Luke Braid (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
    Subs: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Liaki Moli, 20 Brendon O'Connor, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Benji Marshall, 23 Frank Halai.

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    Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

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    Simon Borchardt