Chiefs unlikely to keep SBW in Hamilton

Sonny Bill Williams will likely announce a long-term commitment to New Zealand Rugby tomorrow morning, with two teams both putting down offers for the code-hopping superstars services.

Tana Umaga has been quietly planning for the future at the Blues and has already signed a big name at halfback with the signature of Augustine Pulu, but the rumour mill has always been rife with talk that the one player Umaga really wanted to add to the Blues roster was Williams.

Umaga is so serious to lure Williams that he travelled to Sydney this week to meet with the code-hopping superstars’ manager Khoder Nasser to put an offer on the table.  Continue reading Chiefs unlikely to keep SBW in Hamilton

Chiefs Beat Blues With Another Impressive Performance

Five tries helped the Chiefs to a deserving 29-23 win over the Blues in the Battle of the Bombays.

Aaron Cruden and Shaun Stevenson scored tries with their pace and by being able to draw in defenders, leaving Damian McKenzie to come through with crucial points off the boot when it really mattered.

Mitchell Graham scored his first try in Super Rugby, and Seta Tamanivalu showed his worth in the midfield with a try from pure strength close to the line.

The Blues toiled away all game long and threw everything at a Chiefs defense that proved to be too superior.

What is remarkable is that the Chiefs, despite all their travel, again proved that their fitness, undeniably, sets the standard in Super Rugby this year. Scoring four tries in total, their physicality on defense shut down a Blues side that didn’t kick for territory and rather tried a too direct approach.

The Blues scored two tries, and were in a position to win the game with a ten-point lead before the Chiefs came storming back with three tries in the second half. Continue reading Chiefs Beat Blues With Another Impressive Performance

Dominic Bird To Start For Chiefs

All Black lock Dominic Bird will make his debut for the Chiefs against the Blues as Chiefs coach Dave Rennie makes five changes.

The experienced lock has been nursing a fractured foot that has seen him miss the opening six rounds of Super Rugby. During that time, Bird has remained a key figure off the field by helping the Chiefs improve their lineout with valuable advice.

Bird could have returned last week against the Brumbies but another few days training has seen him catapulted into the Chiefs starting line-up. Continue reading Dominic Bird To Start For Chiefs

Tana Umaga Takes Big Gamble Ahead Of Crusaders Clash

The bravery of Blues head coach Tana Umaga has to be admired after six changes are made to the starting squad for week two.

The Blues will face the Crusaders, a side that lost to the Chiefs last week, but also a group of players that didn’t look all that much better than the Highlanders in the opening week of Super Rugby, but that is beyond the point.

When was the last time a head coach made six changes to the starting line up after coming off a victory in a game that many predicted the side to lose?

You’d be scratching your head in all truth, it seems that Tana Umaga could find himself in a situation where he has more guts than sense.

Such a number of changes can be expected at the level of provincial rugby.

But if you look at the experience in the forward pack, such a statement could be somewhat unfair. Steven Luatua, Patrick Tuipulotu, the returning Jerome Kaino, all regular All Blacks, will feature as part of Umaga’s run on side against the Crusaders.

Perhaps the six changes is perceived to be all the more surprising because of the amount of star power Umaga left on the bench last week.

With the six changes, the biggest surprise comes in the pairing of the halves.

Both Ihaia West and Bryn Hall have been replaced, both performed strongly against the Highlanders and will be left scratching their heads following this afternoons’ announcement. Hall in particular should be feeling angry, he was by far the best scrum half of Super Rugby’s opening weekend, and his demotion should be questioned, even so early into the season.

Rene Ranger will start in the midfield, so the Blues will pack more strength and power in the backline, and if the pre season trials are anything to go by, NRL convert Matt Duffy is more than capable at fullback.

The Crusaders won’t be an easy beat for Umaga’s Blues, and the result will answer a lot of questions about the success of his approach to coaching in Super Rugby.

Blues moving to new HQ facility

The Blues will move to a new purpose built training and administrating headquarters later this year.

BluesView02

Based at Alexandra Park in Auckland, the new Blues headquarters feature a “world class” high performance facility with gyms, offices, and a training field which Blues Rugby say will be a vital cog towards sustainable success in Super Rugby.

Construction at Alexandra Park will begin in March.

The Blues face a battle early in the Super Rugby season as their usual home ground Eden Park is under a CWC blackout, meaning the club has to play their home games elsewhere.

QBE Stadium in Albany will host their opening fixture against the Chiefs on Valentines Day.

The Blues have committed to a 15-year lease with the Auckland Trotting Club to base the new headquarters at the venue.