Blues aim to match Crusaders up front

Coach Tana Umaga says it’s been a topic of conversation in the Blues camp – making sure the Crusaders don’t assert dominance up front at Eden Park.

The Blues, who are seventh in Super Rugby’s Australasian group, host the high-flying Crusaders on Saturday night, needing a win to maintain their play-off hopes.

Umaga hasn’t forgotten the sides’ meeting in Christchurch in early March, when the home side prevailed 28-13 as they embarked on an eight-match winning streak.

“The forward pack have talked about it,” he said.

“They know they have to stand up this week against a pretty formidable front row and forward pack that the Crusaders have.

“We still remember the game we had down there where they did give us a bit of a lesson.”

The Blues welcome back prop Sam Prattley, a late injury scratching from their 17-13 win over the Western Force in Perth last weekend.

However, they will be without the experienced Tanerau Latimer, who has been ruled out with a knee problem and replaced as openside flanker by Kara Pryor.

The All Blacks-filled Crusaders pack have also had an injury withdrawal, with 72-Test lock Sam Whitelock sitting out because of a hamstring strain.

But the southerners have giant Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo back after completing a four-week suspension for a dangerous tackle.

Umaga said Nadolo brought “a whole different level of physicality and size to their backline” but he also felt the Crusaders had coped well in his absence.

“They haven’t missed a beat, really,” he said.

“The guys who got the opportunity while he was away did pretty well too. I think it shows confidence in what they believe in and in their systems down there.”

It was Nadolo who provided one of the big moments of the round-two clash at AMI Stadium, when a barging run sent opposition fullback Matt Duffie flying.

Duffie is back in the Blues’ starting line-up, this time on the right wing, putting him in direct confrontation with Nadolo.

Umaga expressed frustration when asked if that collision would still be on Duffie’s mind, replying: “That tackle was a long time ago, but it’s being repeated over and over again.”

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