Saili keen to prove his worth for the Blues

01:33, Feb 27 2013
Blues v Hurricanes
But dad!...Piri Weepu's daughter Keira doesn't look too happy about sharing in her fathers 100th Super Rugby game celebrations.
Blues v Hurricanes
Blues No 8 Peter Saili breaks away during the win over the Hurricanes.
Blues v Hurricanes
Frank Halai shows his control to touch down for a try in the Blues opening win over the Hurricanes.
Blues v Hurricanes
Francis Saili makes a break during the Blues win over the Hurricanes.
Ali Williams
Ali Williams lays down the law to Chris Noakes (centre) and George Moala.
Luke Braid
Luke Braid celebrates during the Blues win over the Crusaders.
Rene Ranger
Rene Ranger breaks the line for the Blues.
Blues fans
Blues fans show support for their team.
Blues vs Bulls
Liaki Moli of The Blues gets caught in a ruck during the Super Rugby game between The Blues and The Bulls.
Blues vs Bulls
Charlie Faumuina on the attack for the Blues.
Blues vs Bulls
Francis Saili looks to pass for the Blues.
Blues vs Bulls
Jurgen Visser of the Bulls and Marty McKenzie of the Blues compete for the ball.
Blues 2013 Season
Brodie Retallick and his cousin Culum Retallick during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Blues 2013 Season
Ali Williams of the Blues wins lineout ball during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Blues 2013 Season
Luke Braid of the Blues charges forward during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Blues 2013 Season
Rene Ranger of the Blues is tipped upside down during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Blues v Highlanders
Anthony Boric prepares for the tackle during the Blues' win over the Highlanders.
Blues v Highlanders
Ali Williams and Kevin Mealamu discuss a plan during the Blues' 29-18 win over the Highlanders.
Blues v Highlanders
Former teammates Piri Weepu and Ma'a Nonu share a laugh on field.
Blues v Highlanders
Steven Luatua dives over for a try against the Highlanders.
Blues v Highlanders
Piri Weepu celebrates scoring his second try against the Highlanders.
Blues v Hurricanes
James Parson gets past Beauden Barrett to score for the Blues.
Blues v Hurricanes
Piri Weepu gets a pass off as the Blues beat the Hurricanes at Eden Park.
Blues v Hurricanes
Blues captain Ali Williams has a laugh with his side on top.
Blues v Hurricanes
Rene Ranger, Charles Piutau and Andre Taylor clash trying to grab a high ball.
Blues v Reds
Kevin Mealamu hands the ball off to Piri Weepu during the Blues loss to the Reds in Queensland.
Blues v Reds
Rene Ranger tries to fend off the tackle of Jake Schatz.
Blues v Reds
Chris Noakes gets a pass away during the loss to the Reds.
Blues v Reds
Albert Nikora is tackled by James Slipper and Rob Simmons.
Blues season 2013
Steven Luatua of the Blues charges into the Stormers' Andries Bekker during their clash at North Harbour Stadium.
Blues season 2013
Bryan Habana of the Stormers is smashed by the Blues defence during their Round 12 clash.
Blues season 2013
Blues second row Culum Retallick takes a breather during the Super Rugby clash with the Stormers at North Harbour Stadium.
Blues v Cheetahs
Luke Braid jumps over the tackle from the Rebels' Mitch Inman.
Blues v Cheetahs
Rebel Scott Higginbotham looks to kick the ball ahead against Jamison Gibson-Park.
Blues v Cheetahs
Steven Luatua fends off the tackle of Rebel Bryce Hegarty.
Blues v Cheetahs
Francis Saili is mobbed by teammates after scoring a try during the Blues' win over the Cheetahs.
Blues v Cheetahs
Frank Halai dives over for a try against the Cheetahs.
Blues gallery 2013
George Moala charges into the Crusaders defence.
Blues gallery 2013
Frank Halai on the charge against the Crusaders.
Blues gallery 2013
Culum Retallick makes a pass for the Blues against the Crusaders.
Blues gallery 2013
Piri Weepu is closely watched by opposite number Andy Ellis.
Blues gallery 2013
George Moala in action against the Brumbies.
Blues gallery 2013
Rene Ranger on the charge for the Blues against the Brumbies.
Blues gallery 2013
Charles Piutau makes a charge against the Brumbies.
Blues gallery 2013
Ali Williams (centre) lays down the law to his players.
Blues season 2013
Jackson Willison of the Blues is brought down during the round 16 Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Blues season 2013
Blues captain Ali Williams and coach Sir John Kirwan discuss their disappointing loss to the Highlanders.
Blues season 2013
Anthony Boric of the Blues competes with Mose Tuiali'i of the Highlanders in the lineout.
Blues season 2013
Frank Halai makes the hard yards for the Blues against the Highlanders.
Blues gallery
Steven Luatua of the Blues in action during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Blues from Growthpoint Kings Park.
Blues gallery
Jean Deysel of the Sharks continues play without his shirt during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Blues from Growthpoint Kings Park.
Blues gallery
Frank Halai of the Blues goes over for a try during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Blues from Growthpoint Kings Park.
Blues gallery
Chris Noakes of the Blues in action during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Blues from Growthpoint Kings Park.
Blues gallery
George Moala of the Blues in action during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Blues from Growthpoint Kings Park.
Blues gallery
Francis Saili of the Blues fends off Philip van der Walt of the Cheetahs.
Blues gallery
Steven Luatua of the Blues goes for the high ball during their match against the Cheetahs.
Blues gallery
Francis Saili of the Blues in action during their game against the Cheetahs.
Blues gallery
Frank Halai of the Blues in action during their game against the Cheetahs.
Blues v Chiefs
Departing Ali Williams shares a laugh with coach Sir John Kirwan after his last game for the Blues.
Blues v Chiefs
Marty McKenzie in action for the Blues during their season finale loss to the Chiefs.
Blues v Chiefs
Piri Weepu gets a flying pass away during the Blues' loss to the Chiefs.
Blues v Chiefs
Charles Piutau chases the ball down to score for the Blues.
Blues v Chiefs
Kane Barrett leaves the field after a red card against the Chiefs.

There's a smile on Francis Saili's face that's been missing for too long for a young rugby player with his outrageous talent.

A couple of clean linebreaks and a Super Rugby win can do that for a 22-year-old - especially after what he had to endure last year.

His elevation to the Blues from their wider training squad to play five full games last season was a personal triumph tempered by the repeated failings of the team. Then he fronted for North Harbour in the national championship and things went from bad to worse.

Francis Saili
PERSONAL TRIUMPH: Francis Saili playing against the Hurricanes.

It was tough to take for a young man who had been such a star in New Zealand's under-20 world title triumph in 2011.

What a difference a few months can make. What a difference a win can make.

"I'm so happy. We wanted to prove a point, especially coming from disappointing season last year," Saili said, but just as quickly putting the sort of perspective on the situation that will bring a smile to his coach, Sir John Kirwan as the Crusaders loom on Friday night.

Advertisement

"It's not like it defines our season. But it's a start.

"It's going to be a tough one this weekend. I know we had a good win, but we need to stay grounded. It's been back to the drawing board and back to work."

He got a good review from his effort in toppling the Hurricanes 34-20 in Wellington. He mixed good footwork with straight out power, his handling was slick and his biggest work-on was "a need to be a bit more aggressive in my defence".

That will surely get tested at Eden Park where Saili and Rene Ranger are likely to line out against Ryan Crotty and Robbie Freuan. The midfield battle will be crucial.

The Crusaders didn't play last week but even a relative rookie like Saili knows what to expect.

"They are big units," he said of Crotty and Fruean, "and they have some real firepower in their backline. I'm going to see what I can find to try and sneak through."

Second-five Saili is taking confidence from playing alongside the robust Ranger.

"He's always chirping in my ear and I know that if I can try and get through that first defender, he's going to be on my shoulder."

Saili is taking even more confidence from the powerful coaching team assembled around Kirwan. There's no shortage of advice and no lack of personal attention. Grant Doorey is the backs coach, Sir Graham Henry is the defensive guru, Mick Byrne is handing out kicking advice and Kirwan, one of the greatest All Blacks wings, certainly knows what's required from a midfielder.

"For me personally, I'm getting a lot of knowledge from these guys. I feel like I'm building more as a player each and every day with these guys. It's awesome, I can't stress that enough.

"We're there to express ourselves and play the game we like to play ... not be afraid of the plan, but use our abilities. It just feels like fun out there."

Stuff