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Blues v Waratahs preview

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Eden Park, Auckland, 19.35 (07.35 GMT)

These are two teams at the opposite ends of the rugby spectrum and indeed the competition.

The Blues are flying high, second on the standings and on a three-match winning streak. They have won five of their six games and their only loss was by one point. They are coming off a bye and will be fresh.

This is compared to a Waratahs team that have four defeats and a draw in their last five matches. Their only win was in Round One and they are second from bottom on the standings.

So common sense tell you there should only be one winner in this game.

But rugby is played on grass, with an oval ball between two teams of 15 players (22 if you take the replacement benches) into consideration. Complacency can do strange this to teams.

There is no doubt that the Waratahs can’t afford another bumbling effort like those they produced the past two weeks. The Blues are the kind of outfit that will make a team pay that sort of abject display and on that form the Waratahs can expect to be on the wrong end of a 50-point hiding.

This week their build-up was again dominated by the signing of another Rugby League star, that at a time when their most prized asset, Lote Tuqiri, is in the worst form of his life. Tuqiri appears clueless and his crabbing runs across the field make him an easy target for defenders.

As for the Blues. They are being superbly lead by bad boy Troy Flavell, who is playing some of the best rugby of his life.

As we said, their are at the opposite ends of the rugby spectrum.

Here’s some handy information for the statistically minded. The Waratahs have never beaten the Blues at home and in all have managed just three wins in 11 encounters with the Blues. Two of those victories for the Waratahs came in the past two years.

Prediction: Yes, strange things can happen, but we don’t expect history to be rewritten at Eden Park – meaning we expect the Blues to win and win easily. The Blues by 15 points or more.

Teams:

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

Waratahs: 15 Peter Hewat, 14 Sam Norton-Knight, 13 Lote Tuqiri, 12 Morgan Turinui, 11 Lachlan Turner, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 David Lyons, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Will Caldwell, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Alastair Baxter, 2 Adam Freier (c), 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Ben Hand, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Daniel Halangahu, 22 Ben Jacobs, 23 Tim Davidson, 24 Sam Harris

Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Touch judges: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Steve Walsh (New Zealand)
Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Assessor: Stuart Beissel (New Zealand), Brian Kinsey

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