Blues v Reds preview


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Eden Park, Auckland, 19.35 (06.35 GMT)

The Reds have been a revelation this year. Their coach, Eddie Jones, has been talking a good game. Luckily for him his team has backed that up with some very impressive performances.

Yes, they have lost their last two matches, but a 22-33 defeat in Christchurch is not something to be ashamed of. What they will be bitterly disappointed about is letting the Brumbies steal a (6-3) win in Brisbane last week – a game they could have, and should have, won.

Unfortunately for the Reds the Blues have beaten both teams against which the Reds have lost this year – with the Blues getting the better of the Crusaders (34-25) in Round One and the Brumbies (17-15 in Canberra) the next week.

Add to this the fact that the Reds have never beaten the Blues away from home in Super rugby and it all points to a home win.

Also, when the Blues beat the Reds in Brisbane last year, it was the first time that away side had won in encounters between these two.

But games are not won on statistics alone.

The Reds will be without key players like hooker Stephen Moore, who has injured an ankle, and centre Lloyd Johansson, who has been suspended for two weeks for his vicious coat-hanger on Brumbies captain Stirling Mortlock.

David Nucifora’s Blues team will also take heart from the fact that they beat the Reds 38-9 in a pre-season trial at Whangarei.

The Blues have gone for more attacking flair – with former All Blacks Steve Devine (on for David Gibson at scrum-half) and Ben Atiga (for George Pisi at fullback) coming into the side.

Even without their current All Blacks – who are on a World Cup conditioning programme – the Blues will feature 12 past or present All Blacks in their starting XV and two on the bench.

Prediction: The Blues have looked classy all season, even in their defeat to Hurricanes in Wellington last week. The Reds have showed many encouraging signs, but the clever money remain on the Blues. The Blue to win by 10 to 15 points.


Blues: 15 Ben Atiga, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Anthony Tuitavake, 10 Isa Nacewa, 9 Steve Devine, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Justin Collins, 5 Troy Flavell (captain), 4 Greg Rawlinson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Derren Witcombe, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau
Replacements: 16 Chris Heard, 17 Nick White, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Angus Macdonald, 20 David Gibson, 21 Sam Tuitupou, 22 Rudi Wulf

Reds squad:

Forwards: Ole Avei, Rodney Blake, Mitchell Chapman, Ben Coutts, David Croft, Sean Hardman, Herman Hunt, James Horwill, Tom McVerry, Ed O’Donoghue, John Roe (c), Cam Treloar

Backs: Berrick Barnes, Caleb Brown, Nic Berry, Quade Cooper, Charlie Fetoai, Will Genia, Peter Hynes, Clinton Schifcofske, Ben Tune, Brando Va’alu, Henari Veratau

Referee: Willie Roos (South Africa)
Touch judges: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Brent Murray (New Zealand)
Television match official: Chris Rooney (New Zealand)

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