All Blacks may miss Blues Super Rugby opener

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 10:36
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: With the likes of Jerome Kaino, Charlie Faumuina and Rieko Ioane set to miss the Blues Super Rugby opener head coach Tana Umaga is keen to discuss the early-season with All Blacks coaches.

In less than three weeks, the Blues will open their season campaign against the Rebels in Melbourne on February 23  - and top All Blacks such as Kaino, the Blues' co-captain, and Faumuina having only just returned to training - a start for either player at AAMI Park appears unlikely.

While, 19-year-old Ioane, an outside back who played two tests on November's Northern tour, will also be carefully managed back to the playing field as the All Blacks look ahead to a significant year and the arrival of the British and Irish Lions in June.

Kaino and Faumuina are integral entities in  All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen's set-up this year and they will require careful managing as Umaga seeks to avoid emulating last year's season.  

While injuries to co-captain James Parsons and Sonny Bill Williams and the absence due to undisclosed personal reasons of lock Patrick Tuipulotu also adds woes to Blues season.

Hooker Parsons has still to recover from a concussion which wrecked his season with North Harbour last year, and midfielder Williams, a high-profile signing from the Chiefs, still recuperating from a ruptured Achilles suffered from the New Zealand sevens team at the Rio Olympics in August.

Anything less than four competition points against the Rebels, traditionally one of Super Rugby's weaker teams, would be deeply disappointing, yet while Umaga will be tempted to keep his big guns fresh for the New Zealand derby match against the Chiefs in Hamilton in round two, the Blues' problematic travelling record over the past few years means little can be taken for granted.

"It really depends on," Umaga answered to the NZ Herald regarding the availability of Kaino and his All Black teammates. "This is their first week with us and they've only just started a little bit of isolated contact. It's really how they take to that. I think it's a bit of a shock to the system when they start tackling each other. And especially the group he [Kaino] is in, they're not small guys,"

Parsons' return is even more uncertain given his concussion suffered in September which caused headaches and fatigue.

"He's better," said Umaga, who was reluctant to put a time frame on Parsons' return. "He's out on the training field which is an improvement, it's a step closer to where he needs to get to.

"If we start trying to put demands and dates on things that put pressure on him. I don't think that's healthy for him. It will happen when it happens,"

Williams continues to make progress on his Achilles problem and is slated for a March or April return, while as far as All Blacks lock Tuipulotu is concerned, Umaga said he can only offer him support.

The absence of most of Umaga's senior players means former Crusaders lock Jimmy Tupou will captain the Blues for Saturday's pre-season match against the defending champion Hurricanes at the Blues' Alexandra Park training base.

That fixture has taken precedence of the inaugural Global Tens tournament in Brisbane the following weekend, with forwards coach Steve Jackson, who will oversee the Tens team, saying his squad would have only one training run before the tournament.

"Those guys that aren't really familiar with the Tens will get a taste for it next Wednesday, we'll have one hit-out before we leave," Jackson said.

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Fri, 23 March 2018
Crusaders v Bulls 06h35 Christchurch
Rebels v Sharks 08h45 Melbourne
Connacht v Edinburgh 19h35 Sportsground
Dragons v Cheetahs 19h35 Rodney Parade
Glasgow Warriors v Zebre 19h35 Scotstoun
Bath v Exeter Chiefs 19h45 Recreation Ground
Sat, 24 March 2018
Sunwolves v Chiefs 04h15 Tokyo
Hurricanes v Highlanders 06h35 Wellington
Kings v Treviso 13h00 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
London Irish v Gloucester 15h00 Madejski Stadium
Saracens v Harlequins 15h00 London
Sale Sharks v Worcester Warriors 15h00 AJ Bell Stadium
Stormers v Reds 15h15 Newlands
Cardiff Blues v Ulster 15h15 Cardiff Arms Park
Munster v Scarlets 17h30 Thomond Park
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints 17h30 Kingston Park
Ospreys v Leinster 19h35 Liberty Stadium
Jaguares v Lions 19h40 Estadio Jose Amalfitani
Sun, 25 March 2018
Leicester Tigers v Wasps 15h00 Welford Road
Sun, 18 March 2018
Waratahs v Rebels 51 | 27
Sat, 17 March 2018
Jaguares v Reds 7 | 18
Wales v France 14 | 13
Lions v Sunwolves 40 | 38
England v Ireland 15 | 24
Stormers v Blues 37 | 20
Italy v Scotland 27 | 29
Brumbies v Sharks 24 | 17
Highlanders v Crusaders 25 | 17
Fri, 16 March 2018
Cardiff Blues v Treviso 31 | 25
Edinburgh v Munster 12 | 6
Chiefs v Bulls 41 | 28
Sun, 11 March 2018
Wales v Italy 38 | 14
Sat, 10 March 2018
Jaguares v Waratahs 38 | 28
France v England 22 | 16
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Rebels 4 3 0 1 15
Waratahs 4 2 1 1 10
Reds 3 2 0 1 8
Brumbies 4 2 0 2 8
Sunwolves 4 0 0 4 2
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Highlanders 3 3 0 0 13
Hurricanes 3 2 0 1 10
Crusaders 4 2 0 2 10
Chiefs 3 2 0 1 8
Blues 4 1 0 3 6
Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 5 4 0 1 19
Stormers 5 2 0 3 9
Sharks 4 1 1 4 9
Bulls 4 1 0 3 5
Jaguares 4 1 0 3 4