Blues sweat over injured stars ahead of Trans-Tasman Final
NEWS: Blues head coach Leon MacDonald has revealed a couple of his key players are injury doubts for the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final against the Highlanders on Saturday.
The Auckland-based franchise will play in their first final since 2003 when they host the southerners at Eden Park this weekend, but they might do so without some of their star forwards.
Blindside flank and occasional captain Tom Robinson was forced from the field during their 31-21 victory over the Western Force due to a head knock sustained in the first half.
Openside flank Dalton Papalii also left the field early as a result of a hip injury, leaving the pair in doubt for this weekend’s final.
“Our loosies are a bit dinged up, but they’ve got through a lot of work,” MacDonald told reporters after his side’s victory over the Force.
“Tom’s sore, Dalton’s sore… we’ve got a few sore bodies. Tom took a head knock, and we’ll be sweating on a few guys this week.
“I think the backs have come through pretty unscathed, but the forwards have been doing some hard work, and it’s pretty physical so it’s no surprise that they’re sore.”
Aside from the repercussions, their injuries may have on the Blues, the concerns around Robinson’s and Papalii’s availability may be worrying for All Blacks head coach Ian Foster.
Both Robinson and Papalii are thought to be in contention to make the New Zealand national side to play Tonga and Fiji during next month’s Test window, with Foster expected to name his squad for that series in the coming weeks.
However, regardless of whether his two loose forwards are available or not, MacDonald is excited by the prospect of staging a final at Eden Park in front of what’s set to be a packed crowd full of success-starved Blues fans.
“It’s pretty special for us. We were really disappointed with the Aotearoa competition; we were one point away really from making the final, and we didn’t get there through our own form not being where it needed to be in a really tough competition,” he said.
‘To be able to turn around and regroup; we set ourselves up and we’re really consistent for four weeks in our performances. That set us up with the opportunity to play for the final, and to be able to grab that and have a home final is going to be special.
“I know there a lot of guys who have been a part of this Blues team for a long time and been desperately keen to play in a Super Rugby final, so it is a special moment for us.”
By sam Smith, @RugbyPass