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.

Rene Ranger to play for North Harbour prior to Blues return

Rene Ranger will return to New Zealand and play ITM Cup rugby prior to his second coming in Super Rugby next year.

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Ranger was given an early release from his contract with French club Montpellier after spending two years in the French Top 14.

The 65-Blues capped attacking back cited the move back to New Zealand for family reasons.

“Family comes first and that is the big motivator to return. I want to help my Mum more”, Ranger said.

Ranger will make his return to New Zealand Rugby in this years ITM Cup with North Harbour, a major signing for the province.

Ranger says he is excited to join the team he describes as a young team trying to build.

Ranger’s return to Super Rugby will be a major bolster to the Blues next season.

The Blues have gone winless from their opening three rounds of Super Rugby, including two loses over in South Africa against the Stormers and Cheetahs.