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Eden Park clash should be thriller: Kirwan

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Sportal.co.nz     26 Feb 2014     Getty Images

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan, who was involved in more than his fair share of traditional encounters with Christchurch-based sides, said both teams were under pressure and needed the points.

It wouldn't be the end of the world if the Blues departed for South Africa without any points, but there was no doubt Kirwan would prefer to have them.

The Crusaders were under the pump and would put the Blues under pressure and would try to crack the Blues through the middle.

"It doesn't matter who they bring, it doesn't really matter. They all know how they want to play and they'll be bringing it. Kieran Read is back in the side so I think it is fantastic," he said.

Speaking to his decision to replace Chris Noakes with 20-year-old Simon Hickey at first five-eighths, Kirwan said the side had talked about competition in the squad. Hickey had been the New Zealand Under-20 first five-eighths and he was Auckland's ITM Cup player of the season in 2013.

"We just think it is time to give him a chance. If we want to create internal competition we need to start that now," he said.

Kirwan said Hickey had enjoyed the same pathway as All Blacks and Chiefs No.10 Aaron Cruden while he had the calmness of former All Blacks and Auckland five-eighths Grant Fox.

"I think he's a mature young man who is ready for the next step," he said.

Kirwan said he had complete faith in Hickey and he was ready for the chance.

"For me [what he wanted from Hickey] was just get out there and do what you do, enjoy it," he said.

Benji Marshall would continue to cover fullback and first five-eighths. Kirwan said the added bonus the rugby league convert brought was showing what he could bring.

"I think he'll just get better at being Benji Marshall and I think we'll get better at understanding when he is being Benji Marshall," he said.

"When he comes on he sparks us up and we just need to be ready for that."

There was also competition regarding the locking position with Patrick Tuipulotu starting ahead of Liaki Moli this week.

"He came on and made a real impact so deserved to have a crack at it [starting]," he said.

Captain Luke Braid was likely to start for the side after earlier having looked unlikely due to an ankle worry but his availability was a bonus for the side.