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Blues aim for consistency in derby clash against Moana Pasifika

Blues aim for consistency in derby clash against Moana Pasifika

All BlacksMarch 29, 2024

Backing a good win with another is the challenge ahead of the Blues when meeting Moana Pasifika in their DHL Super Rugby Pacific game at Eden Park on Saturday.

Blues coach Vern Cotter said the win over the Crusaders validated the side's work, but there was little time to dwell on it as they knew they were facing a local derby, and if their heads were not right due to complacency, they would get punished.

Avoiding that had been a theme for the side during the week of preparation.

Although points may have been left out in the middle of their win, he said he liked the idea of working to improve while targeting certain areas of improvement.

"Rugby is not perfect anyway, but I think the team is improving, and that is the key at the moment.

"Have we put in a 100 per cent performance? Probably not, and that's a good thing in my thinking. I'd hate to think we were at the top of our game now.

"We need to be at the top of our game perhaps in a couple of months time."

It was clear former Blues coaches Tana Umaga and Tom Coventry had gone to Moana Pasifika. With their coaching group, Moana Pasifika was much fitter. They had some good players and had recruited well.

"It's a very tough game, and they've got go-to strengths that'll put pressure on us. Defensively, it is going to have to be one of our biggest games this season."

Cotter said the Moana Pasifika and Fiji Drua concept was now an exciting part of Super Rugby.

Away kit at the home park ⚪️⚪️

100 Super Rugby games for the best name in world rugby
50 Blues games for Red
Corey Evans starts at fullback

We might be on here pic.twitter.com/mxzUyeWTkO

— The Blues (@BluesRugbyTeam) March 27, 2024

"It's all about opportunity, isn't it? And that hasn't been easy for them. I think they're getting better, more organised and they're certainly becoming more effective on the field. It's exciting for them. They and the Drua are bringing something else to the competition and they'll only get better with time."

The contest on Saturday would see some big collisions.

"It's going to be very physical, hard-hitting, and direct. It'll have moments where the ball pops loose, and there'll be some moments where it'll be a bit of a scramble for both sides.

"So, clear heads and staying composed will be very important in this game."

Corey Evans has been given the start at fullback, with Zarn Sullivan out with an injury. Like Sullivan, Evans gives them a left-foot kicking option, while Cole Forbes was happy coming off the bench with his energy.

"He's someone who does find seams in defence and especially later in the game. He'll have an important role coming in as we go on. There'll be games he'll start and that was a very close call this week."

One player who will start is hooker Ricky Riccitelli, his 100th appearance in Super Rugby. Only 18 games have been for the Blues, with the other 71 being for the Hurricanes between 2016 and 2021.

In celebrating his 100th, he's hoping for better than his debut game, a thumping loss inflicted by the Brumbies in Canberra.

Riccitelli said it was looking for a change that made him look north.

"I knew what I could do on the field, but I wanted to grow as a person away from it, and I thought coming up here would be a great challenge for that.

"It meant that I had to be comfortable being uncomfortable in a new side, new team and new structures, but I had some close mates here. That made me feel welcome and made the move quite seamless in the end."

Now, it is about backing up after the Crusaders win.

"Being able to back up a good win will speak more volumes to the competition than the victory we had on the weekend.

"They'll come out firing and we've got to match the physicality and bring our own venom."

Here is how things shake out after Kids Round!

Where is your team sitting on the #SuperRugbyPacific ladder? 🪜 pic.twitter.com/dB4x4WFgGC

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) March 23, 2024

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