Tony Woodcock likely for Blues in cellar scrap

02:15, May 07 2012
Blues v Crusaders
Blues No.8 Jerome Kaino attempts to score against the Crusaders.
Blues v Crusaders
Blues centre Rene Ranger on the charge.
Blues v Crusaders
Blues loosehead prop Tom McCartney attempts to charge the kick of Crusaders first five Tyler Bleyendaal.
Blues v Crusaders
Crusaders captain Kieran Read is tackled by Blues fullback Isaia Toeava.
Blues v Crusaders
Blues blindside flanker Chris Lowrey and Blues No.8 Jerome Kaino atempt to score against the Crusaders.
Blues v Crusaders
Blues first five Michael Hobbs is tackled by Crusaders second five Ryan Crotty.
Blues v Crusaders
Blues wing David Raikuna celebrates his try with Blues openside flanker Daniel Braid.
Blues v Crusaders
Blues captain Keven Mealamu in action against the Crusaders.
Blues v Crusaders
Blues replacement Piri Weepu in action against the Crusaders.
Blues v Crusaders
Jerome Kaino attempts to charge the kick of Crusaders halfback Andy Ellis.
David Raikuna
The Blues' David Raikuna is tackled during their second round loss against the Chiefs.
Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden and Jerome Kaino
Piri Weepu and Jerome Kaino of the Blues chase down Aaron Cruden and the ball.
Isaia Toeava
Isaia Toeava of the Blues makes a break during the round two Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues.
Piri Weepu
Piri Weepu runs at the Chiefs line after coming on as a second half substitute.
Benson Stanley
Benson Stanley passes to his right, under pressure from Sonny Bill Williams.
Michael Hobbs
Blues first-five Michael Hobbs is hit by Sonny Bill Williams after punting the ball downfield.
Blues v Bulls
Jacques Potgieter of the Bulls is tackled by Benson Stanley and Luke Braid of the Blues.
Blues v Bulls
Alby Mathewson of the Blues in action against the Bulls.
Blues v Bulls
Ali Williams of the Blues and Juandre Kruger of the Bulls.
Blues v Bulls
Ma'a Nonu of the Blues is tackled by Morne Steyn of the Bulls.
Blues v Bulls
Rene Ranger of the Blues is tackled by Akona Ndungane of the Bulls.
Blues v Bulls
Wynand Olivier of the Bulls is tackled by Daniel Braid of the Blues.
BBlues gallery
Andries Bekker of the Stormers charges the Blues' defence.
BBlues gallery
Stormers hooker Tiaan Liebenberg charges the Blues' defence.
BBlues gallery
Blues centre Ma'a Nonu finds a gap against the Stormers.
BBlues gallery
Chris Lowrey of the Blues passes against the Stormers.
BBlues gallery
Stormers flanker Duane Vermeulen wins the lineout dagainst the Blues.
Blues v Hurricanes
Blues lock Ali Williams claims a restart against the Hurricanes.
Blues v Hurricanes
Hurricanes fullback Andre Taylor steps past Blues fullback Lachie Munro as he heads to the try-line.
Blues v Hurricanes
Blues second five eighth Ma'a Nonu dives over to score in the tackle of Hurricanes flanker Jack Lam.
Blues v Hurricanes
Ma'a Nonu of the Blues celebrates with Piri Weepu after scoring a try against the Hurricanes at Eden Park.
Blues v Rebels
Gareth Anscombe of the Blues is hauled in by Rebels defenders during their round seven match.
Blues v Rebels
Ma'a Nonu of the Blues looks to get past James O’Connor of the Rebels.
Blues v Rebels
Ali Williams of the Blues runs with the ball against the Rebels.
Blues v Rebels
Rudi Wulf of the Blues is tackled by Rebels defenders during their round seven match.
Blues v Rebels
James O’Connor of the Rebels celebrates with Mitch Inman after he scored against the Blues.
Blues v Rebels
The Rebels celebrate after they defeated the Blues.
blues gallery
The Blues are disconsolate after conceding a try to the Sharks.
Blues v Sharks
Blues fans show their support for coach Pat Lam.
Blues v Sharks
Michael Hobbs juggles the ball during the Blues loss to the Sharks.
Blues v Sharks
Ma'a Nonu chases JP Pietersen and the ball during the Blues' loss to the Sharks.
Blues v Sharks
Ma'a Nonu and Gareth Anscombe discuss tactics during the Blues' loss to the Sharks.
Blues v Sharks
Blues players celebrate Benson Stanley's try against the Sharks.
Blues v Highlanders
Highlanders player Hosea Gear about to be tackled by Blues players.
Blues v Highlanders
Highlanders' Jarrad Hoeata tackling Blues' George Moala.
Blues v Highlanders
Blues player Tom McCartney lines up the Highlanders' Adam Thomson.
Blues v Highlanders
Rene Ranger of the Blues dives for the tryline against the Highlanders.
Blues v Highlanders
Tom McCartney of the Blues shows his disappointment after their loss to the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Blues v Reds
Blues tighthead prop Charlie Faumuina tackled by Reds' Scott Higginbotham.
Blues v Reds
Blues first five Gareth Anscombe tries to escape from Reds centre Digby Ioane.
Blues v Reds
Blues lock Filo Paulo scragged by Reds first five Ben Lucas.
Blues v Reds
Reds centre Digby Ioane runs at Blues second-five Ma'a Nonu.
Hurricanes v Blues
Hurricanes' Karl Lowe on the charge against the Blues.
Hurricanes v Blues
Victor Vito wins the ball over Ma'a Nonu.
Hurricanes v Blues
Cory Jane slips through a Piri Weepu tackle.
Hurricanes v Blues
Blues' Piri Weepu passes against the Hurricanes.
Hurricanes v Blues
Blues centre Ma'a Nonu runs at Lions halfback Ross Cronje.
Hurricanes v Blues
Blues halfback Piri Weepu tries to escape from Lions flanker Grant Hattingh.
Hurricanes v Blues
Blues wing Benson Stanley is tackled by Lions wing Deon Van Rensburg.
Hurricanes v Blues
Blues wing Benson Stanley tries to step Lions fullback Andries Coetzee.
Hurricanes v Blues
Blues second-five Michael Hobbs scores the opening try against the Lions.
Hurricanes v Blues
Referee Angus Gardner issues a yellow card to Deon van Rensburg of the Lions.
Hurricanes v Blues
Blues right wing David Raikuna in action against the Lions.
Hurricanes v Blues
David Raikuna (L) and Ma'a Nonu against the Crusaders at the new AMI Stadium at Rugby League Park in Christchurch.
Hurricanes v Blues
Zac Guildford is tackled by Angus Ta'avao (top) and Steven Luata of the Blues at the new AMI Stadium at Rugby League Park in Christchurch.
Hurricanes v Blues
Robbie Fruean on attack against the Blues at the new AMI Stadium at Rugby League Park in Christchurch.
Hurricanes v Blues
Dan Carter cool under pressure against the Blues at the new AMI Stadium at Rugby League Park in Christchurch.
Blues V Highlanders
Highlanders centre Tamati Ellison is tackled by Blues' second-five Michael Hobbs.
Blues V Highlanders
Blues reserves Piri Weepu, Ma'a Nonu and Ali Williams on the bench against the Highlanders.
Blues V Highlanders
Highlanders left wing Hosea Gear in action against the Blues.
Blues V Highlanders
Blues right wing David Raikuna is scragged by Highlanders halfback Jimmy Cowan.
Blues V Highlanders
Blues tighthead prop Tevita Mailau scores against the Highlanders.
Blues v Chiefs
Rene Ranger sets up the Blues' second try.
Blues v Chiefs
Lachie Munroe scores for the Blues.
Blues v Chiefs
Chiefs and Blues players have a group hug at North Harbour Stadium.
Blues v Chiefs
Blues player Francis Saili is tackled by Chiefs player Sona Taumalolo.
Blues v Force
Francis Saili is tackled by the Force's Nick Cummins.
Blues v Force
Francis Saili fends the Force's Will Tupou.
Blues v Force
Piri Weepu in action against the Force.
Blues v Force
Ma'a Nonu in action against the Force.
Blues v Force
Luke Braid in action against the Force.
Blues v Brumbies
Ma'a Nonu of the Blues is tackled against the Brumbies at Canberra Stadium.
Blues v Brumbies
Alby Mathewson of the Blues kicks the ball against the Brumbies at Canberra Stadium.
Blues v Brumbies
Blues players celebrate after winning their round 18 match against the Brumbies at Canberra Stadium.
Blues v Brumbies
Robbie Coleman of the Brumbies is tackled against the Blues at Canberra Stadium.

The beleaguered Blues will take every bit of good news they can get at the moment - and the likely return of All Black prop Tony Woodcock this week definitely comes into that category.

As does the presence of the All Blacks coaches past and present in the camp this week as the Blues receive a scheduled visit from Steve Hansen and his crew and also a look-in from World Cup-winning maestro Sir Graham Henry.

Coach Pat Lam confirmed today that his classy loosehead was "looking good" to return from a calf injury and front John Mitchell's Lions on Friday at Eden Park in the battle of Super Rugby's losingest teams.

Tony Woodcock
BOOST FOR BLUES: Tony Woodcock is "looking good" to return from a calf injury and front John Mitchell's Lions.

The Blues, with Friday's 35-19 defeat to the Hurricanes in Wellington, have lost seven on the trot and nine of their 10 matches this season. They are the bottom placed team overall with just 12 competition points.

The Lions fell to their eighth consecutive defeat against the Chiefs in Pukekohe on Saturday night and their record of 1-8 for 14 competition points is equally as dismal. Only the extra bye sees them ahead in the tussle to avoid the wooden spoon.

Lam, steadfastly buoyant despite his team's abysmal form, said Woodcock's return would be a huge boost for what shapes as a defining sort of clash, for all the wrong reasons.

Advertisement

But beyond that there were few bright lights on the horizon.

Skipper Keven Mealamu looks likely to miss another week with his own calf problems, and Lam admitted the hooker's June test prospects now had to come under a cloud.

"He's doubtful," said Lam of his skipper's chances of fronting this week - a scenario that he felt now applied to his June chances.

"It's more a case now of making sure we do everything right. We don't want to risk him if he's not quite right. The mind is willing, but it's just making sure the body is there."

Lam will also have to make a change in his loose trio to face the Lions, with Chris Lowrey ruled out after suffering concussion against the Canes. Wing George Moala is also highly doubtful with groin problems. Loose forward Steven Luatua has been called into the squad for the rest of the campaign.

"It's obviously a big game for us and what we need to do to get the win," said Lam. "When you make changes, injury enforced or whatever, it's about getting clarity for the individuals concerned.

Lam has a host of areas to focus on as he looks to break the losing streak against the struggling Lions who showed signs against the Chiefs that they may have turned a corner with their play.

The big South African pack scored all three of their tries in Pukekohe off the back of driving mauls from the lineout, and they will have eyed the flimsy Blues set piece and some pretty ordinary tackling against the Hurricanes with more than a little relish.

"There are a lot of similarities with what they've been going through and what we're going through," said Lam. "I suppose it is quite a desperate game for both teams which should make it a challenge.

"They're a good side, particularly in the forward pack, and we respect every team because of where we are. We want to get a win."

To do so Lam admitted that the Blues are going to have to execute better in the lineout, where they won just five of nine on their own throw against the Hurricanes, and also provide a more rigid defensive line.

"It's just those little things similar to the rest our game. At crucial times, when we had opportunities to score, it would be wrong decisions, dropped ball or bad pass. It's all part of it."

Lions and former All Blacks coach John Mitchell reckoned it came down to which team would find its confidence first.

"Everyone's got their theories. I think the top teams are a cut above the middle teams, as always in this competition, but I think the middle teams just have a little more confidence than the bottom teams, and the bottom teams are trying to find confidence.

"Ultimately Friday night will come down to who gets the momentum and who's prepared to back themselves and finish. I'm not sure a team will get confidence from one win but it certainly will help."

The Blues had the All Blacks coaches and medical team in as part of their regular visits round the franchises, and Lam confirmed that as well as interviews with selected players, they would also be offering their input into the team's operation.

The same went with Henry who sat in on today's team meeting and continued to offer advice when called upon.

"He pops in now and again through his busy schedule. It's always good when he comes in, he feels the frustration and talks about things he's seen too," said Lam.

"He's just asking the questions like we do, and it's good to have him here. He's another voice, another insight."

But really what the Blues need most right now is another win.

Fairfax Media