Centre Ranger has big role for Blues

Getty Images     14 Jan 2013     Getty Images

Kirwan said Ranger had been outstanding through the preliminary stages of the side's development.

"He's leading the backline and doing a great job," he said.

Injuries always had the ability to derail the best intentions but Kirwan said he was keen to have Ranger at centre as often as possible.

"He should be a key focal point in our backline that's not to say down the line he might have to cover other positions, but for me he has to cement our backline," he said.

Kirwan was delighted with the way the pre-Christmas training was advanced over the holiday period as all the players returned last week with improved statistics.

"This week has been our first technical week so it has been really intense for them and it has been a good week," he said.

Defence coach Graham Henry had been talking about the methods he wanted to introduce while Kirwan had brought in a changed attacking programme.

"There's quite a lot of learning to be done in the next two weeks. They're positive, they're fast learners and I think we are all on the same page," he said.

Kirwan was conscious that it was a difficult time for the group because there was so much information being poured into the players. It was a case of taking their time, making sure there was clarity and after that was achieved more competitiveness could be added.

He was reluctant to put pressure on returning lock Anthony Boric to play.

"I think he's a fantastic Blues man. He has come through a pretty big injury so there's no pressure on him back to play.

"He's right on target, he's looking fantastic but I just want to make sure that when he comes back he's coming back to stay and that he achieves all the goals that he still wants to achieve in the game," he said.

Kirwan admitted the absence of the experience All Black Tony Woodcock brought to the side could not be replaced since his transfer to the Highlanders. Tom Chamberlain would fill the role with Angus Ta'avao who could cover both sides of the scrum while Tim Perry had also come up from the South Island to put the pressure on in competition for the spot.

"We are covered but do we have the experience of Woodcock? No. But these guys are up for the challenge and they see it as an opportunity just like I do. The experience of Woodcock is difficult to replace but the ability is not," he said.