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Hickey to direct Blues against Waratahs

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Sportal.co.nz     23 Apr 2014     Getty Images

Injury to Chris Noakes, with Baden Kerr already out for the season, and Benji Marshall opting out of the side, has left the Blues exposed once again at first five-eighths.

Hickey is a comer, and was named captain of the New Zealand Under-20 team on Wednesday, but cannot be expected to carry the load for the positional shortfall suffered by the Blues.

With no-one permanently occupying the position with anything like the dominance Carlos Spencer achieved in the early years of last decade, and Gareth Anscombe now plying his craft with the Chiefs, the search goes on.

Coach Sir John Kirwan said the way out of the situation was to identify not one but two young first fives and earmark them for future reference to come through the system.

If that wasn't possible then the short-term fix was to go and find a first five-eighths which Kirwan admitted the Blues had been looking at.

He said he had no regrets about letting Anscombe go in one of the first moves he made after being appointed coach. He had stepped up to the challenge with the Chiefs.

They could do a lot worse than sign up for the foreseeable future. West has been spending his 10 days with the side getting up to speed with game plans and while it wouldn't be the easiest situation for him the management were spending as much time with him as they could.

But like Hickey, West, would find it a steep learning curve in stepping up to Super play.

Kirwan said he was sure Hickey would be very competent in the role but it was tough in his first year which started out in the wider training group.

Kirwan said the franchise was trying to look ahead and plan, and he said they also had some issues at lock.

By utilising Tony Hanks in the high performance role, they would be looking five years down the track to secure players.

Kirwan said the last placing the side has in the New Zealand conference was not the end of the world. The top team had 24 points and the Blues had 16. The loss to the Hurricanes had put the side under pressure and the side was now in a must-win situation.

"If we get our points we'll be back up to 20-21 points and back in the race so it is critical moment for sure so we need to step up and front," he said.

In the selection for Friday, Steven Luatua has been placed on the bench with Peter Saili called in at No.8 because Kirwan wanted more of the physical approach that Saili added to the side.

"They're [the Waratahs] are a big, strong pack so we want to match them physically and that's where Pete comes in and gives us a little of that defensive and ruck edge," Kirwan said.

Luatua did need to work on getting himself in good positions to make ball carries and tackles and he was aware of that need.

The team to play the Waratahs is: 1.Tony Woodcock, 2.Keven Mealamu, 3.Charlie Faumuina, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu, 5.Tom Donnelly, 6.Jerome Kaino, 7.Luke Braid, 8.Peter Saili, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Simon Hickey, 11.Lolagi Visinia, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.Francis Saili, 14.Frank Halai, 15.Charles Piutau.
Reserves: 16.James Parsons, 17.Sam Prattley, 18.Angus Ta'avao, 19.Hayden Triggs, 20.Piri Weepu, 21.Steven Luatua, 22.Ihaia West, 23.Pita Ahki.