Blues ready for the unexpected against the Force

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Coach Vern Cotter said that with only one significant training session due to the short turnaround, the side's approach on Friday would not change much.

"It's doing the simple right, and making sure that we're prepared in that manner."

The Blues must maintain their best touch at their set-piece play, carry their clean ball and bring their attitude.

He expected the Force would look to throw the ball around and attempt unexpected things.

"We need to be alert and ready to adapt to any situation."

Overcoming the Blues' historic inability to follow a good performance with another quality effort was seen with wins over the Crusaders and Moana Pasifika on consecutive weekends, and it was a case of adding a third.

The dynamics behind the need to achieve that had changed due to injuries, concussions for captain and lock Patrick Tuipulotu and second five-eighths Bryce Heem, and a shoulder injury for first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta.

Halfback Finlay Christie has been coping with a niggly groin, so he has been rested to take advantage of two weeks off, with next week being a bye week for the side.

Wing Mark Tele'a has had a rib cartilage issue that required injections before recent games, so the two-week break is also good timing for him.

"We've got a new pair of halves. Taufa Funaki and Harry Plummer will play halfback and first five-eighths. We anticipated that would happen at some point, so the leaders needed to step up.

"It's about driving the game properly and making sure the leaders get their attitude right and then expect anything that comes at us."

Cole Forbes will have his first start at fullback after impressing off the bench in recent weeks.

"He's worked his way up. He's a great character. He's a great communicator at the back. He helps everybody on the pack and with the changes we have it's nice to have someone from the back field who can bring a bit of confidence with good communications."

Lock Laghlan McWhannell has been given another opportunity to start, which reflects his progress during the campaign.

He had endured a tough start during the side's strength and conditioning pre-season work and was rewarded for his efforts by playing some great rugby.

"I'm impressed with him. He's running and calling the lineouts. Paddy [Tuipulotu] is not there, and he has stepped up. He's got a young lock next to him [Josh Beehre] and offers support.

"With his dominant play he can only get better. He's only halfway there, he'll get much better."

Cotter said next week's bye was coming at a good stage of the season. The game is physical, and squads in New Zealand are smaller than those run in northern hemisphere sides.

"The games [here] are played at a reasonable speed, and there's reasonable force in each collision.

"This break comes at a good time. It cuts the season in half, so you can work to get in a good position. Then you've got your second half, which is the business end of the season.

"We've got some players that need to regenerate."


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