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Blues name Ranger, Mealamu on bench

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Sportal.co.nz     28 Jun 2013     Getty Images

The game is scheduled to be played on Sunday morning, New Zealand time, but it is anticipated that if Mandela dies a 10-day period of mourning may be introduced which could have an effect on scheduled sports fixtures.

Because no-one is wanting to pre-empt the situation, it had been difficult for the Blues to get clarity on the matter, coach Sir John Kirwan said from Durban on Thursday.

In the meantime, Kirwan had to delay the naming of his side due to the late arrival of All Blacks Keven Mealamu and Rene Ranger. Because of a three-day travel protocol requiring players to rest before a game the pair will only start off the bench.

New All Blacks Steven Luatua and Charles Piutau, and squad member Francis Saili, also arrived after the bulk of the team and it was only on Thursday that the side was able to have its first training run since the All Blacks assembled.

Another factor has been a viral illness suffered by lock Culum Retallick who had spent three days in bed after the side's arrival.

Kirwan was not too fazed by the delay in player arrivals and said the management had planned for the situation.

"Today is our first training run together. The situation is not the most ideal but the boys are excited and refreshed after the break," he said.

They would be naming the strongest team possible for the game which is a virtual knockout game for the Blues hopes of making the play-offs.

Kirwan said the feeling in the side was a little like the start of the season and he was hopeful that could result in a similar quality of play being produced by the side.

"We have been talking about how important the game is and we are on edge and a little nervous," he said.

Kirwan was also mindful that the Sharks had also had a tough week while losing their coach John Plumtree after seven years with the side.

Kirwan, who said he knew how Plumtree felt having been through the same situation himself, had dinner with him on Wednesday night. He believed the Sharks side would play the game for Plumtree and would be keen to do very well. The whole affair had lent more spice to the game, he said.

The Blues went to the break having absorbed what Kirwan said had been a fantastic learning curve in the season and in learning how to play the game he was looking for more balance in the side's kicking game.

"We are looking to play the style of footy that suits us on a hard and fast track," he said.

The new All Blacks were rearing to go but Kirwan said he had advised them not to try too hard. "But they are really excited about where they are at and I'm hopeful that will give us some energy," he said.

Blues:

15. Charles Piutau
14. Frank Halai
13. Jackson Willison
12. Francis Saili
11. George Moala
10. Chris Noakes
9. Piri Weepu

8. Peter Saili
7. Luke Braid
6. Steven Luatua
5. Ali Williams (C)
4. Anthony Boric
3. Angus Ta’avao
2. James Parsons
1. Tim Perry

Reserves

16. Keven Mealamu
17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
18. Kane Barrett / Culum Retallick
19. Brendon O’Connor
20. Jamison Gibson-Park
21. Baden Kerr
22. Rene Ranger