BLUES RECRUITMENT BALANCE
Would have to be considered a negative return for the Blues simply because they have lost Charlie Faumuina and Steven Luatua – two seasoned, international campaigners who delivered a huge amount both on and off the field.
The most significant signing they made, Otere Black, is unlikely to play due to major knee surgery so they will have to wait to see whether he’s the answer at No 10.
On the plus side, they were able to snare Caleb Clarke, one of the stars of the New Zealand Under 20 campaign and a young man who could end up having the same sort of impact as Rieko Ioane.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TACTICALLY?
The wider the Blues play, the more teams they will fancy they can beat. They understand they can’t be predictable in generating width and that they need to fix defences and create the space to exploit.
If they can do it well and use the likes of Rieko Ioane, George Moala, Clarke and Akira Ioane in the outside channels, then they will be a handful.
GUT FEEL – RISERS OR FALLERS?
Difficult question to answer as the loss of Faumuina and Luatua is significant. But if Jerome Kaino can fire up, Akira Ioane lift his work rate and Stephen Perofeta settle into his work, then the Blues could be a better side – just – than they were last year.
WHERE WILL THEY FINISH?
They will be in the playoff hunt for sure. The challenge for them is to beat New Zealand sides. If they want to be in the top eight, then they are going to have to win their home derbies and then hope they can pinch a couple of victories on the road.
Will be in the hunt late into the piece but will come up one win short of making the playoffs.