Blues ready for step up in class against the Brumbies

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The Australians have been one of the most consistent sides across the Tasman and while without a win against New Zealand sides, Blues coach Leon MacDonald knows the threat they represent.

 

"I watched them throughout the Australian competition, and for round one against the Crusaders, and even for large periods against the Chiefs they were really good. I thought the Chiefs played really well, and put them under a lot of pressure," he said.

 

MacDonald said studying the Brumbies was like looking at New Zealand teams.

 

"They're well-organised, they play with a lot of intensity, and the set-piece is a big part of their game. When they get that right, they're a tough team to beat," he said.

 

The Brumbies would come to Auckland disappointed at their showing against the Chiefs but said it was probably one of the Chiefs' better efforts of the year.

While grateful to have captain and lock Patrick Tuipulotu back on deck after a long injury break, MacDonald said he wasn't tempted to start him against the Brumbies.

 

"Patrick has been out of the game for a while. He managed 25 minutes last weekend, and, hopefully, we can build that up a bit more this week. You're always tempted to get the skipper out there for more minutes, but we also want him in good nick for the tail-end of the season. It's important we graduate him in the right way," he said.

 

Also back for the game are All Blacks' loosies Dalton Papalii and Hoskins Sotutu. Both had minor injuries that saw them rested last week while prop Ofa Tuungafasi has played every game this season and has been given a break to rest a niggling knee.

 

It was important to be able to sustain scoreboard pressure throughout the game and MacDonald has another strong bench to call on with Tuipulotu and fellow All Blacks, props Nepo Laulala and Alex Hodgman and No8 Akira Ioane, while dangerous wing Mark Telea will also be available.

 

MacDonald knows how important the final quarter could be.

 

"The Crusaders have won a lot of games over the last few years in the last 20 minutes, and, conversely, we've dropped some in the last 20. It's important we get that balance right.

 

"Having Nepo coming off the bench adds another dimension to our pack. Guys who close games are just as important as those who start," he said.

 

The Blues v Brumbies clash kicks off at 7.15pm at Eden Park on Saturday. Get your TICKETS HERE.

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