Injuries no excuse for Super Rugby Blues

Daniel Gilhooly
Coach Leon MacDonald is running short on troops as the Blues prepare to play the NSW Waratahs

The Blues won't use the longest injury list in Super Rugby as any excuse when they tackle the NSW Waratahs in Newcastle.

Leon MacDonald's team have made a poor start to the season, disintegrating in the second half of their 37-29 loss to the Chiefs at Eden Park before diagnosing some unwelcome medical news.

Star winger Rieko Ioane (hand) is out for several weeks, along with impressive prop Alex Hodgman (calf), while hooker Ray Niuia's (knee) season is over.

Seven other squad members are unavailable for Saturday night's clash, including last week's starting flanker Tony Lamborn, who has picked up an infection.

The multiple blows aren't what MacDonald needs as he tries to steer the Blues into the finals for the first time since 2011.

Without access to new signing Beauden Barrett until mid-April - the All Blacks five-eighth is enjoying an extended off-season break - the Blues will need to rack up early-season success to ensure they're still in contention at that point.

"Injuries are part and parcel of this competition and this sport but gives us the opportunity early in the season to give opportunities to others," Macdonald said.

"We're confident in all our squad. I've got no doubt they can step up."

MacDonald has promoted strong-running provincial winger Jordan Hyland to replace Ioane while Blake Gibson starts at openside flanker. The loosehead prop vacancy is filled by powerhouse 2018 All Black Karl Tu'inukuafe.

The coach took a glass half-full approach to their opening loss, highlighting how impressive they were in creating three first-half tries, including a brace to Ioane.

"Some of our play and our intent in the first half in particular and for periods of the second half were outstanding.

"We executed some strikes really well and I felt our defensive line got up and created a lot of pressure but there were some momentum swings that we didn't manage as well as we'd like."

BLUES

Matt Duffie, Jordan Hyland, Joe Marchant, TJ Faiane, Mark Telea, Stephen Perofeta, Jonathan Ruru, Hoskins Sotutu, Blake Gibson, Dalton Papali'i, Josh Goodhue, Patrick Tuipulotu (capt), Sione Mafileo, Kurt Eklund, Karl Tu'inukuafe. Res: James Parsons, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Ofa Tuungafasi, Tom Robinson, Akira Ioane, Sam Nock, Harry Plummer, Emoni Narawa.