Blues ready for breakdown battle with the Rebels

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Defence coach Craig McGrath said starting skipper Dalton Papali', Adrian Choat and Anton Segner, who will play at No8, was recognition of their form at the moment.

With regular No8 Hoskins Sotutu on All Blacks leave and flanker Akira Ioane not fully back from injury, it was also a reflection of the quality of loose forwards they can call on.

But if the side is to secure quality ball to give their dangerous backs chances to attack more consistently, they would need to lift the quality of ball they can win in the loose.

McGrath said that was a point they realized after the side hadn't achieved what they wanted against the Chiefs.

"We got a lot of territory and a lot of possession and we didn't finish it, so we've spent a lot of time on that part of the field to make sure we execute when we get down there."

Part of that process has seen the backs and forwards spending more time together than usual in their preparation during the week.

That would be important because the Rebels were going well, they had several players in the Australia squad, and the Blues were under no illusions that it would be challenging in Melbourne.

McGrath said they felt in a better position as a group than last year and liked their direction.

Papali'i said they were not panicking after last week's loss to the Chiefs. It was a closely contested game and could have gone either way.

"If we are going to win, we need to find the one or two percenters we need to get right.

"We're nearly there and I feel like this is the week we are going to put it all together."

Papali'i said they were a team which attacked the ruck, and with their defence, their game flowed from that.

"Last year we thought we were pretty good at it and this year we're showing phases where we are good at it, and then we're not. We need to put it all together for 80 minutes to get a dominant win. So, we're focusing on that with our ruck at the moment."

They also needed to be ruthless at crunch moments, the sort that had seen them drop the ball over the goal line against the Crusaders and the Chiefs.

"We need to execute. It's those moments we miss, so if we can nail those, it is happy days.

"We're a team, when we're having fun, we are opening up the game, then we're scoring amazing tries, then the other half is us forwards smacking the rucks, making clean ball for the backs to execute on. We need to nail that."

Papali'i leaves the Rebels are a better side than they were last year and have gone close to upsetting New Zealand teams.

"They've come a long way from when we played them last year until now so it's going to be a grudge match, especially at their home and they want to get one over a New Zealand team so we're going over there and it's going to be a big match."


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