Super Rugby
Mealamu, Braid leap to Kirwan's defence
March 11, 2015
Sir John Kirwan has received the support of a couple of Blues veterans © Getty Images
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Senior Blues players Keven Mealamu and Luke Braid say coach Sir John Kirwan has their full confidence after a rocky start to the Super Rugby season.

Kirwan is under fire as the Blues sit on the bottom of the Super Rugby table, winless after four games. But Mealamu says the results aren't just the coach's fault.

"We've got to look at this as a team thing, not just coaches but players as well. We're in this all together," he said. "When you look back to the last four games I think it's just key moments where we've had the foot off the throat or let the opportunity for the other team to come back into the game. I think if we can win the key moments it'll really change for us."

Braid described the team's support for Kirwan in succinct terms.

"He's our coach and we've got his back for the whole season."

Braid said the team weren't far away from a top performance in their 13-10 loss to the Lions last Saturday.

"We got held up four times the weekend so obviously if you're getting held up four times you should be walking it in other areas," he said. "I think the game plan's alright, it's just our decision making at certain times. I thought we probably did a few too many pick and goes which stopped our momentum, and then when our backs took the ball we didn't have front foot ball."

Kirwan said he and the team had been focusing on what they could control rather than speculation about his future.

"Results haven't gone our way but that hasn't stopped our belief in what we're doing," he said. "The boys are disappointed obviously but there's excitement around the place. We just need to get a win. What we're doing is working, we just need to execute a bit better and if we can execute our game plan on Friday we'll be in the hunt."

Jerome Kaino will miss the Blues' clash with the Hurricanes © Getty Images
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Meanwhile, the Blues will have to make do without captain Jerome Kaino after the veteran back-rower was ruled out of the game against the Hurricanes with concussion.

Bruising All Blacks loose forward Kaino has started all four games and been arguably their best player. He suffered the head knock during the loss to the Lions on Saturday but passed a concussion test during the game when he left the field in the 20th minute. Kaino's No.8 berth goes to Steven Luatua, who shifts from the blindside flank. Brendon O'Connor is introduced, with fellow flanker Braid assuming the captaincy.

In two frontrow changes, All Blacks prop Tony Woodcock returns from a rest in place of Ofa Tu'ungafasi while James Parsons usurps Test veteran Mealamu at hooker.

Halfback Jimmy Cowan is in doubt with a knee strain and has been bracketed with Jamison Gibson-Park.

A notable selection on the bench for the first time this season is utility back George Moala, who has recovered from a knee injury. Moala is awaiting sentencing after a jury found him guilty of assault with intent to injure over an incident in Auckland in December 2012. He will be sentenced on May 1. The Blues said Moala's bail conditions allowed him to fulfil all obligations as a professional rugby player, including travel.

Blues: Lolagi Visinia, Frank Halai, Charles Piutau, Francis Saili, Melani Nanai, Ihaia West, Jimmy Cowan/Jamison Gibson-Park, Steven Luatua, Luke Braid (capt), Brendon O'Connor, Patrick Tuipulotu, Josh Bekhuis, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Angus Ta'avao/Sam Prattley, Hayden Triggs, Akira Ioane, Gibson-Park/Bryn Hall, Simon Hickey, George Moala.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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