Aussies have Lions to thank for form

Tue, 23 Apr 2013 16:32
Large john kirwan at eden par630k Large quade cooper reds try Large will genia reds pass

Blues coach John Kirwan believes the impressive form the Australian Super Rugby teams are showing could be attributed to the looming B&I Lions tour.

Blues coach John Kirwan believes the impressive form the Australian Super Rugby teams are showing could be attributed to the looming British and Irish Lions tour.

Kirwan’s third-placed Blues face the second-placed Reds at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, with this year’s results suggesting a win for the Brisbane side.

The Australians have scored seven victories over New Zealand teams this season, with the Hurricanes the only team to manage a win against them.

Kirwan feels the race for places in the Wallaby team for the three-Test series against the Lions in June has brought the best out of Australian players this season.

He referenced the return to form of Reds playmaker Quade Cooper after being omitted from Robbie Deans’s first planning squad earlier this month as a case in point.

“It’s a bit like the World Cup isn’t it? Everyone has a bit of an edge and wants to be selected. I know when I was playing, to play the Lions was a highlight,” Kirwan said.

“I just wish [Wallaby coach] Robbie Deans hadn’t left Quade out of that squad, since then he’s been playing the house down.”

Ten rounds into the competition the exuberant Blues find themselves topping the New Zealand Conference, however, Kirwan is not getting carried away. Instead, he stressed the importance to stay focussed and keep working hard.

“I’m really happy with where we are but we’re just half-way through and we need to make sure that we keep working hard,” he said.

“The next six weeks is defining for everyone. The bottom team can get to the top and the top team can go to the bottom so we’re not getting carried away, we’ve got to keep working hard and we’ve got a huge test on Friday.”

Indeed, Friday’s fixture in Brisbane will be the biggest challenge the Blues have faced this season.

The 2011 champions are in fine form, toppling last year’s champions the Chiefs a fortnight ago before grinding out a 19-all draw with the table-topping Brumbies last week.

“They’re the best side in the competition,” Kirwan said.

“I thought it was a really tense, physical battle the other night against the Brumbies so we need to be ready for that.

“It’s going to be a battle up front firstly because they’re really aggressive at the ruck and then we need to try and contain two world-class backline players in Will Genia and Quade Cooper.”

Captain Ali Williams missed training on Monday with an ongoing knee issue but will be fine to take on the Reds, while Kirwan intimated that All Black veteran Keven Mealamu would continue to make his impact felt off the bench on Friday.

“Keven will probably play off the bench. Kevvie’s going well and so is JP [James Parsons] so we’ve got a really nice bit of competition there.

“We know what Kevvie can bring us but JP has also been playing the house down so off the bench for Kevvie and see what happens.”

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Fri, 04 December 2015
Cardiff Blues v Connacht 19h05 BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park
Ulster v Edinburgh 19h35 Kingspan Stadium
Gloucester v Sale Sharks 19h45 Kingsholm
Sat, 05 December 2015
Treviso v Scarlets 15h00 Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Glasgow Warriors v Leinster 15h00 Scotstoun
Harlequins v London Irish 15h00 Twickenham Stoop
Worcester Warriors v Leicester Tigers 15h00 Sixways
Bath v Northampton Saints 15h15 Recreation Ground
Wasps v Exeter Chiefs 17h30 Ricoh Arena
Sun, 06 December 2015
Dragons v Munster 14h30 Rodney Parade
Newcastle Falcons v Saracens 15h00 Kingston Park
Zebre v Ospreys 15h00 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Waratahs 16 11 0 5 52
Brumbies 16 9 0 7 47
Rebels 16 7 0 9 36
Reds 16 4 0 12 22
Force 16 3 0 13 19
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Hurricanes 16 14 0 2 66
Highlanders 16 11 0 5 53
Chiefs 16 10 0 6 48
Crusaders 16 9 0 7 46
Blues 16 3 0 13 20
Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 16 10 1 5 45
Lions 16 9 1 6 42
Bulls 16 7 0 9 38
Sharks 16 7 0 9 34
Cheetahs 16 5 0 11 26