Sir John Kirwan demands more from Blues

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 13:01 26/02/2013
Peter Saili
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ
ON THE BURST: Peter Saili on the charge for the Blues against the Hurricanes.

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The Blues' heavyweight coaching department are working on the headspace of their players and demanding improved fundamentals, as they get set to host the Crusaders at Eden Park on Friday night.

The smiles from last weekend's shock 34-20 upset of the Hurricanes have been replaced by furrowed brows as the Blues look at how to counter the might of the Crusaders.

The red-and-blacks head north on the back of a frustrating opening round bye and that throws up an interesting scenario - the benefit of rest against the confidence the young Blues outfit got from their deeds in the capital.

"They will be fresher than us and with a week extra to prepare. I think they will have been all sitting there watching the game on the weekend and they will be really up for it," Kirwan said of the Crusaders.

As for his own outfit, this will surely be a time when having the likes of Sir Graham Henry and Mick Byrne around to keep the players grounded will be invaluable.

Kirwan might have stretched that a bit far when he said the Blues "have achieved nothing". The players were chirpy, as they deserved to be, because their five competition points came against expectation. But it was now about ensuring there was no complacency.

''Let's just make sure we get it right this week," Kirwan insisted, aware of the reality check the Crusaders threaten.

His season mantra of "better never stops" was going to get an early test and he was adamant the Blues needed to improve "everything".

"We need to make sure that we get up mentally. We are the underdogs at home. People are talking about them being champions ... this is going to be a big week for us and a big game."

The Blues were impressive with their patience and ball retention against the Hurricanes and their composure and commitment were the foundations of the first-up win.

But the Crusaders would test them far more, particularly in the lineout where the Blues were near perfect in Wellington.

"We know their line out will probably be coming to town to attack us with All Blacks locks. That's going to be a tough one. The set piece is going to be a fundamental at the moment."

The players would look to expand their attack but it was a matter of choosing the right moments, something new first-five Chris Noakes had controlled well against the 'Canes. There needed to be a balance between territory and possession.

"That's a fine line so we need to make sure they have the freedom to go, but we just don't put ourselves under too much pressure," Kirwan said. 

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