Hurricanes backs coach Alama Ieremia has defended Beauden Barrett's defensive qualities and says Tusi Pisi's selection at first five-eighth is more tactical than form-related.
Barrett has been shifted to fullback for Saturday's Super Rugby match against the Blues at Eden Park, with Pisi taking over in the No 10 jersey.
Ieremia acknowledged Barrett had had some issues with his defence this season, but it was not the main reason for the reshuffle.
"It's a tactical change for how we approach this Blues outfit," he said today.
"It's a combination that's worked well for us late in games and this week we'll have a look how it goes starting in games.
"That's [defence] probably what people are talking about the most, but to be honest, Beaudy has been fantastic in that area as of late in terms of making his tackles from set piece, so he's improved.
"His tackles stats are actually up. He's making more effective tackles going into this weekend.
"But having him at fullback maybe frees up the pressure a little. It's a bit of a different sort of defence."
It will be Pisi's first start of the season after a string of cameos, but the Samoan test player is no rookie after a long professional career in France and Japan.
The 30-year-old provides more of a physical presence than Barrett and has returned for a second season with the Hurricanes on a high after leading Suntory to the Japan Top League title.
Tactically, it appears the Hurricanes believe having two genuine kicking and playmaking options on the field will serve them well against the Blues, who beat them 35-20 in the opening round in Wellington.
"Tusi does give us a little bit of assurance there [in defence], but also from an attack point of view, so it's a change-up in both attack and D," Ieremia said.
"Tusi has been around a while now. Some of his tactical kicking and awareness in the back field [is very good].
"He's had a lot of experience in that area and he's added some value for us when he's come on."
Which means he has kicked to space well, where Barrett has tended to find the man with his clearances this year.
That is not something the Hurricanes will want to provide for the likes of Blues backs Charles Piutau, Rene Ranger and Frank Halai.
"You have to respect the Blues. They have some real potent attacking weapons out the back and right through the backline," Ieremia said.
"We have to get the balance right in terms of directing the tone and hopefully negating some of their attack."
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan has made two changes to his starting side, with Rene Ranger moving from centre to the wing for the suspended George Moala.
Francis Saili will start at centre, with Jackson Willison retaining his role at second five-eighth, while prop Tom McCartney is recalled at loosehead prop in place of Tim Perry.
Hurricanes: Beauden Barrett, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (c), Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Tusi Pisi, TJ Perenara, Faifili Levave, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Jason Eaton, Mark Reddish, Ben May, Motu Matu'u, Ben Franks/Reggie Goodes. Reserves: Dane Coles/Ash Dixon, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, James Broadhurst, Jack Lam, Chris Smylie, Reynold Lee-Lo, Andre Taylor.
Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Francis Saili, Jackson Willison, Rene Ranger, Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams (c), Calum Retallick, Angus Ta'avao, James Parsons, Tom McCartney. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Anthony Boric, Brendon O'Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Baden Kerr, Albert Nikoro.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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