NZ Rugby World
The Jersey that Just Can’t be Filled
Beauden Barrett’s sabbatical
– built into his contract when he shifted from the Hurricanes - means the Blues are a little light at No10 and fullback.
Rieko Ioane is likely to play in the midfield as his preferred position is centre. An Ioane, TJ Faiane midfield is a solid one, and Harry Plummer can play a role at second-five, but one or two injuries could leave the Blues a little exposed in this area, although Tanielu Tele’a can play centre, as could Caleb Clarke at a pinch.
Stephen Perofeta is likely to be in the running for fullback, along with Emoni Narawa. Perofeta can also play No 10, but that role is likely to go to either the experienced Otere Black or newcomer Zarn Sullivan. Another potential issue is that, apart from Black, Ioane and Faiane, there isn’t a lot of experience in the backline.
Barrett’s influence at the back at the start of last year meant the Blues looked far more assured, even if it took a while for him to find his attacking groove.
They looked a more confident group with him on the park helping direct play. There will also be a reliance on halfback Finlay Christie’s speed of pass; after sitting out the early part of the season with injury, the Blues looked better with Christie’s sharpness at the breakdown.