Blues' defensive resilience to be tested by dangerous Reds

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The Blues have conceded only two tries in their last four games. Coach Vern Cotter was sometimes wary of statistics because one game could turn them around.

It was about continuing to prepare well and to realise there was no slackening.

"As soon as you think the job's done, that's when it turns around and bites you."

However, the players enjoyed their defensive work because they could get the ball back in favourable conditions and exploit those chances.

"It's a part of this team and we work on it, and we'll need to keep working on it."

Cotter said the Reds appeared to have sorted out some issues in their game, and the Blues were preparing for them to come at them 'reasonably direct.'

"They're a team that is quite defensive and good at holding attacking players up. So, they'll try and slow our ball down.

"There has been an emphasis on dealing with that to ensure we can get fast ball.

"If we can get fast ball, we can create breaches where we need to and they do enough damage, hopefully, to come away with the win."

After their 31-0 win over the Highlanders, they would confidently approach the Blues game.

"We're under no illusions how difficult it's going to be to play them up there, and they would have seen last week's game [when the Blues beat the Brumbies 46-7], and that would have put a little attitude into their Monday morning."

Cotter said he thought the Reds would make fewer mistakes than the Brumbies. However, the Blues would try to force errors and create opportunities to put pressure on them.

There were extra factors involved, including travel, that made it a different challenge.

The Blues camp was confident but not overconfident. They needed to keep their feet on the ground and keep working.

While some changes have been made to the side, Caleb Clarke has a bruised calf, and Akira Ioane is on paternity watch, he was confident there was no loss of strength.

Clarke could have played, but with a crucial run of games ahead, they erred on the side of caution and put him on the bench.

But it also gave AJ Lam a chance that he deserved.

"AJ has been going well, so it gives him an opportunity to start the game and if things loosen up we can bring Caleb on to bring his power to give us a bit of punch to finish the game."

Laghlan McWhannell dropped to the bench, but that was because Sam Darry needs time after recovering from injury.

Cotter said McWhannell impressed when called in for more regular game time when Darry and captain Patrick Tuipulotu were injured.

Josh Beerhe had also been a great help, and Cotter said they were happy with the strength they had in their locking.

It was a similar situation for Cole Forbes at fullback after Zarn Sullivan was injured.

"When Zarn went down, we didn't really know a lot about Cole but he's made every post a winner."

First five-eighths Harry Plummer and halfback Taufa Funaki had also filled in well for All Blacks Stephen Perofeta and Fin Christie.

"It's been a boost for the group and it's encouraging. It means that other players, when they come in, and if they've done the work, we can keep things at a simple level for them. They'll be able to operate and bring the best of themselves."

Reds v Blues: Saturday 27 April, 9.35pm NZT, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.


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