Blues keep focus on task at hand

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Assistant coach Craig McGrath said they were not discussing who their prospective quarterfinal might be against; they were concentrating on the Highlanders.

"That will all play out on Saturday night, and everyone will know who they've got, and we'll look forward to that. We have no preferences [about who they play]; every team is a good team once you get to the playoffs.

"We're not thinking about teams, we're thinking who's next? This week it's the Highlanders."

He said there were many scenarios to play out in the finals analysis, and they would wait for those to play out.

That need to remain attentive to the Highlanders meant the load of preparing for the quarterfinals would be left to the side's analysts.

"They've got a job to do on Saturday. But, man, they will be working hard once we find out who we've got. They've got a lot of work to do to get it to us coaches so we can start to do our work.

One unexpected bonus for the Blues was the return of captain and No8 this week, Dalton Papali'i, a week early from suspension.

Owning what he did wrong when being yellow carded with a review making it a red when making a high tackle on Crusaders' first five-eighths, Richie Mo'unga had the benefit of his three-week suspension being dropped to two weeks.

Papali'i went through the World Rugby intervention programme with McGrath.

McGrath said, "If he nails that, you get a reduction. Dalton did a great job, so much so that World Rugby want to use some of the stuff he did as a tool for other coaching interventions.

"Dalton owned it. It was a good exercise for us all around skill development, and a good exercise for Dalton too."

It was a timely release for Papali'i as fellow loosie Adrian Choat was carrying an injury and was unavailable this week.

Papali'i said, "I know what I did wrong, and shoulder to the head any day of the week is going to be yellow going into red.

"Reviewing the clip again, I deserved the red. Going through the process makes you realise what damage you can do. World Rugby said I have learned my lesson. I've got to drop my body height.

"I flew into the tackle. I knew what was going to happen. I read the play, and in the heat of the moment, I sprinted into it. I should have shortened my feet up and dropped my body height. I tried to beat him to the space and to get the pass off. I read it wrong and went in too fast.

"I had to learn from it. Hopefully, I've set an example that when you're coming back you've got to know what you've done wrong and how you can get better from it."

It had been a heat-of-the-moment thing against a player he regarded as a good mate, and Papali'i sought Mo'unga out as he was leaving the field to the sin-bin and in a message afterwards.

Blues v Highlanders: Friday 2 June, 7.05pm NZT, Eden Park. TICKETS.


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