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Blues still seek formula for holding possession

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Lynn McConnell     14 Apr 2017     Getty Images

In a surprise move, Sonny Bill Williams has been preferred as the starting second fie-eighths ahead of George Moala while Rieko Ioane will remain at centre.

Coach Tana Umaga said Moala had had a big workload for the Blues this season and it hadn't been his best game against the Highlanders last week. There was pressure on for places in the mid-field and that was the situation they were in regarding selection each week.

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The side was under pressure to perform, especially in relation to its continuing inability to notch wins over New Zealand sides.

"We know where we're at, we understand the pressures of the tournament for us but we've still got to go out there and try to play the game we want to play for 80 minutes and to also get those key moments for us and we had a few of those at the weekend that we just didn't turn that into points.

"We released pressure on them so we've just got to understand those key moments and hold onto the ball and to take advantage of those key moments for ourselves," Umaga said.

The identifiers for the problems the side has had in retaining ball were a combination of things, he said.

"It's belief, it's the pressure of those key moments in our want to do really well. Maybe that is something that ties people up. It's not through lack of effort that we're not getting games, it's just those key moments of keeping cool under pressure.

"We're in a stage where we know, and can't get away from our record against New Zealand teams, everyone wants to do well but it is then making sure we stay disciplined…Because everyone wants it so bad they are jumping over each other to try and do things, and create things, rather than just to have that discipline to stay within our structures.
The approach to the game for the Blues had to be about concentrating on their own game. They had shown they could compete against every team they had met and they knew that they game they have got works when they stick to it for 80 minutes.

"We know what they are going to bring. They bring a lot of energy and they are playing with unreal confidence at the moment and we've just got to try and combat that. And if we focus on them too much it takes away from what we are trying to do," he said.

Captain James Parsons backed up Umaga's comments about the anxiety to get results and the prospect of trying too hard.

"We're doing really well in the first half but then teams are good enough to change their pictures and we have to adjust to them better in the second half, and especially that last 20.

"It's frustrating there's no doubt. We put a lot of effort in, as the coach says there's no lack of effort, it's just got the execution factor we've got to get right. As a leader the best form of leadership I can do is nail my role and lead by example in that sense.

"I can't worry about what others are doing, I've just got to trust they're prepared and ready to execute this Saturday. We can't let the past hamper us, we've just got to go out there and play our game," he said.