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Thread: Round 7 Auckland Blues v Western Force

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    Round 7 Auckland Blues v Western Force

    Force attacks coach Ozich says 'we're up for big challenge' against Blues

    Tue, Apr 2, 2024, 4:00 AM
    Ben Somerford


    Western Force attacks coach Mark Ozich says the mood within the playing group is positive and says they are up for the “big challenge” of Friday’s clash with the second-placed Blues.

    The Force flew into Auckland on Saturday evening ahead of Friday’s game which starts at 2:05pm WST, after going down 31-13 to the Fijian Drua in driving rain in Lautoka in Round 6.

    Saturday’s loss to the Drua left the Force in 12th with a 1-5 win-loss record, but Ozich said they’d moved on to focus on the Blues’ test.

    “Obviously it was tough over there in Fiji, disappointing in terms of not getting the result,” Ozich told reporters.

    “We’ve bounced back and I think the mood, by and large, is pretty positive about moving on to the Blues and the next challenge. Definitely a tough one in Fiji.

    “We had a good plan going into that game. As the rain came in the day before, it rained for 24 hours there, we’ve spent three months in Perth and there hasn’t been any rain.

    “We were confident with our plan. We talked about it today around our skill execution in those conditions, we struggled to play territory, we struggled to execute our set piece. They executed much better than us more often in those conditions.

    “Obviously changing direction, set piece and that foundation of scrum, it was difficult for us. There’s a whole lot of learnings in that.”

    The Blues appear to be one of the Super Rugby Pacific title contenders, sitting second with a 5-1 win-loss record following a strong 47-8 victory over Moana Pasifika.

    Ozich said the squad had been determined to take lessons from Fiji and remain positive in preparation for Friday’s game at Eden Park.

    “That’s the challenge in coaching, there’s an art and a science to it,” Ozich said. “It was difficult in those conditions to play we wanted to play.

    “We’ve got to move on and stay positive. We had a good review today. We found some of the gold nuggets and took the learnings and put a plan together to go into Friday night against the Blues.

    “Now it’s about, ‘ok, we take the learnings, acknowledge some of the things we got wrong but now it’s about building some momentum through this week’. We’ve got a new challenge. The Blues is a good challenge for us. It’s a big challenge but we’re up for it.”

    Ozich, who has personal connections with Blues assistant coaches Craig McGrath and Paul Tito, pointed to their physical style along with their kicking game, headlined by fly-half Stephen Perofeta plus outside backs Caleb Clarke and Mark Telea.

    “We’ve been tracking the Blues,” he said. “It’s clear they’re a powerful explosive team.

    “We’re going to have to be on our game and those collisions, those first-up tackles. If our defence can stop their gain line and we can frustrate them, hopefully that’ll flow on to the attacking side of the ball.

    “The big thing is to stop their go-forward on a physical space. Secondary to that is their kicking game with the likes of Perofeta, and their outside backs Caleb Clarke and Telea, they’re good in the air, they kick a lot so we’re going to have to be good in the air and negate some of that high ball they put in behind.

    “It’s a big challenge. It’s going to be a physical one on Friday night, so we’ve got to get that right if we’re any chance to upset them.”

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    Immortal Contributor shasta's Avatar
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    When did "learnings" become part of sports word salads? First time I noticed it was when Raelene Castle often used it as a sort of euphemism while explaining why the ARU had f@cked things up (again).

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    Immortal jargan83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shasta View Post
    When did "learnings" become part of sports word salads? First time I noticed it was when Raelene Castle often used it as a sort of euphemism while explaining why the ARU had f@cked things up (again).
    Just Kiwi things.

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    Nothing like a good ole lesson… learned …

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    Hopefully there are a few all blacks in the blues due for resting this week just to give us a tiny chance

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    Quote Originally Posted by shasta View Post
    When did "learnings" become part of sports word salads? First time I noticed it was when Raelene Castle often used it as a sort of euphemism while explaining why the ARU had f@cked things up (again).
    Agree - actually annoys the hell outta me! What's wrong with just saying 'lessons' - this new fad seems to have been quickly adopted by sportspeople as fashionable (or just plain ignorant!)

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    Veteran Sheikh's Avatar
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    Congratulations to Henry O'Donnell - in line for his debut off the bench this week.

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    Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon

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    Force name debutant as duo return for Blues test in Auckland
    Wed, Apr 3, 2024, 10:58 AM
    by Ben Somerford


    The Western Force have named their 23-player team list for Friday’s Round 7 Super Rugby Pacific clash with the Blues, with Henry O’Donnell named to be club debutant #256.

    Former Wallabies lock Sam Carter has been promoted to the starting XV, while Max Burey will start at full-back with Harry Potter unavailable due to an ankle injury sustained in Saturday’s loss to the Fijian Drua.

    Utility back O’Donnell, 21, earns his maiden nod after some impressive displays for Force A along with a good cameo against the ACT Brumbies in pre-season where he scored a late try.

    O’Donnell was part of the Northern Suburbs side that reached last year’s Shute Shield final and scoring four tries in five games for the Young Wallabies at the 2023 World Rugby U20 Championship in South Africa.

    Joondalup Brothers product Marley Pearce and back-rower Will Harris both return as reserves following suspension and head injury protocols respectively. Josh Bartlett will miss due to a shoulder injury.

    Friday’s game at Eden Park against the second-placed Blues (5-1) kicks off at 2:05pm WST. The game will be live on Stan Sport, while there will be regular updates @WesternForce on social media.

    Game details

    Blues v Western Force

    Eden Park, Auckland, 2:05pm WST

    Live on Stan Sport

    Force Team List

    Starting XV: Ryan Coxon, Tom Horton, Santiago Medrano, Sam Carter, Thomas Franklin, Tim Anstee, Carlo Tizzano, Reed Prinsep, Nic White (c), Ben Donaldson, Chase Tiatia, Hamish Stewart, Sam Spink, Bayley Kuenzle, Max Burey

    Reserves: Ben Funnell, Marley Pearce, Tiaan Tauakipulu, Lopeti Faifua, Will Harris, Ollie Callan, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Henry O’Donnell

    https://westernforce.rugby/news/west...s-blues-202443

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    80 Minutes, 15 Positions, No Protection, Wanna Ruck?

    Ruck Me, Maul Me, Make Me Scrum!

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    Veteran Sheikh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sheikh View Post
    Congratulations to Henry O'Donnell - in line for his debut off the bench this week.
    Ha! Beat TIFF to the scoop!

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    Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon

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    Not sure about going back to a 6:2 bench split, when the only backline reserve covering positions 10 to 15 is a debutant. Not great to see another prop injury as well - hopefully not serious or long term!

    This game has the potential to be a big blowout after a tough travel schedule. Looks like the Blues are resting a few and/or have some injuries, so that should help:

    Blues:
    Ofa Tu’ungafasi
    Ricky Riccitelli
    Angus Ta’avao
    Josh Beehre
    Laghlan McWhannell
    Akira Ioane
    Dalton Papali’i
    Hoskins Sotutu
    Taufa Funaki
    Harry Plummer
    Caleb Clarke
    Corey Evans
    Rieko Ioane
    AJ Lam
    Cole Forbes

    Reserves:
    Soane Vikena
    Joshua Fusitu’a
    Marcel Renata
    Anton Segner
    Adrian Choat
    Sam Nock
    Lucas Cashmore*
    Caleb Tangitau

    *Potential debut

    Players not considered: Sam Darry (knee), Stephen Perofeta (shoulder), Mark Tele’a (ribs), Finlay Christie (groin), Patrick Tuipulotu (concussion protocol), Bryce Heem (concussion protocol), Zarn Sullivan (knee), Rob Rush (calf), Cam Suafoa (sickness), Kade Banks (concussion protocol)

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    Immortal Contributor shasta's Avatar
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    Still no sign of Moli. He was wandering among the punters at the Reds match. Re-injured @ training would be par.

    PS Nice to see the Blues giving an injury update with their teamsheet

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    Force learn Drua lessons before daunting Eden Park trip

    Thu, Apr 4, 2024, 1:04 PM

    Western Force boss Simon Cron says his bottom-ranked side can only hang with the red-hot Blues in Auckland if they learn the lessons of a shock thrashing at the hands of the Fijian Drua.

    The Perth-based side have only won once in their opening six Super Rugby Pacific encounters and are massive underdogs for their Eden Park test on Friday night.

    They've also lost impressive backline talent Harry Potter for the season with an ankle injury and are feeling the pinch from Lautoka's waterlogged conditions last Saturday, where the Drua brushed them aside 31-13.

    "Every game we play, every opportunity we get, we've got to learn from those games," Cron said.

    "There's some key learnings that we'll take out of the Drua game that will help those players for the rest of their careers around wet-weather rugby.

    "But we are focusing on some of the things we did really well and making sure we drive those home too, because when we play together and we play for 83 minutes rather than 63 we're actually going pretty good."

    Potter heads for ankle surgery on Friday, shifting Max Burey into the starting fullback role, with Junior Wallabies flyer Henry O'Donnell picked on the bench for a potential SRP debut.

    "Harry unfortunately for him, he's suffered that injury from being tackled from behind and it's really disappointing for him," Cron said.

    "He's pretty disappointed about it, but like all of us, will look forward and he's now focusing on what he can do to get better and he goes into surgery (on Friday).

    "However the guys who are here, they get another opportunity to prove themselves, a good opportunity to step up … they've got some real clear focus areas going into the game."

    The Blues enter off the back of three straight wins and were in dynamite touch last round, thrashing Moana Pasifika 47-8 in one of the most impressive performances of the season.

    Acknowledging the difficulty of playing at Eden Park, Cron has called experienced ex-Wallabies lock Sam Carter into the starting side little more than a week after he joined the club following playing stints in Ireland and England.

    "He's only been with us for nine days, but he came off the line defensively, does all the things that tight five players need to do," he said.

    "It's a combination of his headspace, his experience and what he brings to a team as well as he's a big tall human, which we don't have a huge number of."

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    Super Rugby Pacific Round Seven Preview

    Thu, Apr 4, 2024, 1:31 PM
    rugby.com.au


    Friday 5 April 5:05 pm AEDT – Blues v Western Force at Eden Park, Auckland, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport

    Teams

    BLUES (1-15): Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Ricky Riccitelli, Angus Ta'avao, Josh Beehre, Laghlan McWhannell, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali'i (c), Hoskins Sotutu, Taufa Funaki, Harry Plummer, Caleb Clarke, Corey Evans, Rieko Ioane, AJ Lam, Cole Forbes

    RESERVES: Soane Vikena, Joshua Fusitu'a, Marcel Renata, Anton Segner, Adrian Choat, Sam Nock, Lucas Cashmore, Caleb Tangitau

    Mass changes for the Blues with Stephen Perofeta (shoulder), Mark Tele’a (ribs), Finlay Christie (groin), Patrick Tuipulotu (concussion protocol) and Bryce Heem (concussion protocol) all out

    Dalton Papali'i is a timely return, captaining the side as he comes into the backrow

    Lucas Cashmore, nephew of former Blues fullback, Adrian Cashmore is a potential debutant off the bench.

    FORCE (1-15): Ryan Coxon, Tom Horton, Santiago Medrano, Sam Carter, Thomas Franklin, Tim Anstee, Carlo Tizzano, Reed Prinsep, Nic White (c), Ben Donaldson, Chase Tiatia, Hamish Stewart, Sam Spink, Bayley Kuenzle, Max Burey

    RESERVES: Ben Funnell, Marley Pearce, Tiaan Tauakipulu, Lopeti Faifua, Will Harris, Ollie Callan, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Henry O’Donnell

    Max Burey comes back into the starting side at fullback with no Harry Potter

    Sam Carter has been elevated into the starting side after his club debut last week

    Junior Wallaby Henry O'Donnell will make his debut off the bench

    Stats

    The Blues have lost just one of their 14 matches in Super Rugby competitions against the Western Force, winning 11 straight

    The Blues have won each of their last eight Super Rugby Pacific matches at Eden Park, conceding an average of just nine points per game across their last four fixtures at the venue over that period.

    Ben Donaldson has averaged 38 meters per kick from his 54 kicks in play, the highest average of any player in the competition

    Key Match Up

    Dalton Papali'i v Carlo Tizzano

    With the Blues struck down with knocks and injuries, Papali'i will have to step up and lead the way.

    The All Black is one of the best in the competition and faces the tough task of nullifying the effectiveness of Carlo Tizzano.

    Tizzano rises when he plays the best - just ask Fraser McReight and the Reds - and this will be no different as he pushes for a Wallabies call-up.

    Prediction

    Blues by 8
    (Burgs- I think I'd take an honourable performance 8 points, I fear it will be more like 28)

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    From Blues Rugby-

    The Blues are gearing up for Friday night under the lights against the Western Force at Eden Park in Round Seven of DHL Super Rugby Pacific action.

    Dalton Papali'i will lead the side this week in the absence of Patrick Tuipulotu, forming a formidable loose trio with Akira Ioane and Hoskins Sotutu.

    A new nine-ten combination sees Taufa Funaki start at halfback, with Harry Plummer at pivot, while Lucas Cashmore, nephew of former Blues fullback, Adrian Cashmore is a potential debutant off the bench.

    Corey Evans joins Rieko Ioane in the midfield on Friday night while AJ Lam assumes the right wing. Cole Forbes gets his first start in the Blues jersey after some impressive performances off the bench.

    Blues Head Coach, Vern Cotter said while there’s been some forced changes this week, the team is in a settled frame of mind.

    “With a short turnaround we’re lucky to have Dalton step in and lead the side, it’s a seamless transition given he captained at the start of the season and is a familiar voice in the leadership group.”

    “We’ve been giving plenty of the group game time this season and this week is no different, we know the Force are coming here to disrupt us so we’ve got to be fully focussed on the job at hand on Friday night.”

    Blues:

    1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
    2. Ricky Riccitelli
    3. Angus Ta’avao
    4. Josh Beehre
    5. Laghlan McWhannell
    6. Akira Ioane
    7. Dalton Papali’i
    8. Hoskins Sotutu
    9. Taufa Funaki
    10. Harry Plummer
    11. Caleb Clarke
    12. Corey Evans
    13. Rieko Ioane
    14. AJ Lam
    15. Cole Forbes

    16. Soane Vikena
    17. Joshua Fusitu’a
    18. Marcel Renata
    19. Anton Segner
    20. Adrian Choat
    21. Sam Nock
    22. Lucas Cashmore*
    23. Caleb Tangitau

    *Potential debut

    Players not considered: Sam Darry (knee), Stephen Perofeta (shoulder), Mark Tele’a (ribs), Finlay Christie (groin), Patrick Tuipulotu (concussion protocol), Bryce Heem (concussion protocol), Zarn Sullivan (knee), Rob Rush (calf), Cam Suafoa (sickness), Kade Banks (concussion protocol)

    Friday 3 April

    Blues v Western Force

    Kick-off 7.05pm

    EDEN PARK, Auckland

    LIVE on Sky Sport and Gold Sport & iHeart Radio

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    Champion Tazzmania's Avatar
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    The luck is certainly not on our side Santi a late scratching.

    Joel Hintz to the bench Tiaan to start

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    Simon Cron: “People talk about winning and losing all the time and they are critical, but there’s a process to get into and it’s the ability to stay present, do your job and execute skills under pressure.”

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