BLUES

The Blues are facing a tough season. Whilst their 2018 squad appears to include some quality backs, they seem a bit light amongst the forwards.

When we look at some of the big-name players who have left the Blues, we see that Steven Luatua has gone off to Bristol while Charlie Faumuina has gone to Toulouse, both current All Blacks who will be missed. These are a couple of the powerhouses that used to give the Blues some forward grunt. Another of their hard men, Blake Gibson, is out with a long-term injury and may miss half the Super season before he is back up to speed.

The Blues’ forwards were guilty of underperformance in 2017 and one wonders whether they can lift their game in 2018? Patrick Tuipulotu showed some early promise last year, and then faded into mediocrity, something that the Blues cannot afford from him, or the rest of the forwards, again this year.

Far too much rests on the shoulders of the likes of Jerome Kaino and Akira Ioane putting in high-quality performances all season, something no one can expect from any player. Both are quality players, but they cannot carry the team for the whole season.

Outside of the forwards, the Blues have lost two of their most important playmakers. Ihaia West has gone off to the Hurricanes while Piers Francis has opted to go back to the United Kingdom. The remaining backs do seem to have plenty of firepower, with the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane and Matt Duffie, who are bolstered by the young guns Jordan Trainor, TJ Faiane and Caleb Clarke.

 The Blues Squad for 2018 is:

 Forwards: Leni Apisai, Matt Moulds, James Parsons, Alex Hodgman, Sione Mafileo, Pauliasi Manu, Isaac Salmon, Mike Tamoaieta, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Josh Goodhue, Scott Scrafton, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jimmy Tupou, Blake Gibson, Akira Ioane, Jerome Kaino, Dalton Papalii, Glenn Preston, Kara Pryor, Murphy Taramai

Backs: Sam Nock, Augustine Pulu, Jonathan Ruru, Otere Black/Daniel Kirkpatrick, Bryn Gatland, Stephen Perofeta, Matt Johnson, George Moala, Tamati Tua, TJ Faiane, Sonny Bill Williams, Caleb Clarke, Michael Collins, Matt Duffie, Rieko Ioane, Melani Nanai, Jordan Trainor

 Changes to the squad are as follows:

 In:

Leni Aspai (Hurricanes)
Otere Black (Hurricanes)
Caleb Clarke (Auckland)
Matthew Johnson (Southland)
Daniel Kirkpatrick (Albi)
Dalton Papali’i (Auckland)
Glenn Preston (North Harbour)
Jonathan Ruru (Otago)
Isaac Salmon (Tasman)
MIke Tamoaieta (North Harbour)
Tamati Tua (Northland)

 Out

Billy Guyton (Tasman)
Epalahame Faiva (Waikato)
Charlie Faumuina (Toulouse)
Piers Francis (Northampton Saints)
Steve Luatua (Bristol)
Brandon Nansen (North Harbour)
Declan O’ Donnell (Taranaki)
Leighton Price (Taranaki)
Sam Prattley (Auckland)
Rene Ranger (La Rochelle)
Matt Vaega (North Harbour)
Ihaia West (Hurricanes)