theblues.co.nz and James Mortimer 22.Mar.2013Getty Images
After rolling the changes and losing to the Bulls before the bye, Kirwan has reverted to the tried and tested formula that saw the Blues defeat the Hurricanes and Crusaders in the opening two rounds of the Investec Super Rugby competition.
Chris Noakes takes the reigns at first five-eighths, while George Moala, Peter Saili, Culum Retallick, James Parsons and Tom McCartney all return to the starting XV.
On the bench, Anthony Boric is poised to make his first appearance in more than a year after surgery on his neck kept him sidelined, while halfback Jamison Gibson-Park maintains his position in the 22 in place of Bryn Hall.
“We’ve got this idea of making sure we continue to create a full squad. The loss certainly influenced what we do going forward so it’s back to the guys that have been proven for us,” Kirwan said.
“We’ve kept Jamo (Jamison Gibson-Park) on the bench because we thought he came on and brought us a different look from halfback but if we were a few weeks down the track and we’d got a few more wins then we’d probably look at trying to involve more guys just because if we don’t and some injuries happen down the track we’re going to be under the pump.”
After three hit-outs for the Blues development team, Kirwan said Boric was both physically and mentally ready to get stuck in against the Waratahs.
“We’ve picked him because he’s stopped mentally processing. He’s had those three development games and in the first game he was thinking about his neck and doing things that he might not normally do…but he’s progressively got better so he’s in the side because he’ll go on and won’t think about it anymore. We’re pleased to have him back.”
Kirwan is under no illusions as to how difficult Sunday’s showdown with the under-siege Waratahs will be.
“I think they’ll play their best game of rugby. They’re under the pump, they’re desperate, they’ve got a coach who’s saying ‘this is a war’ and they’ve got a good enough football team to beat anyone so if we’re not ready for that sort of intensity then we’re going to lose. I reckon it’s a huge test for both teams.”
The Blues team to face the Waratahs at Allianz Stadium on Sunday is:
15. Charles Piutau
14. Frank Halai
13. Rene Ranger
12. Francis Saili
11. George Moala
10. Chris Noakes
9. Piri Weepu
8. Peter Saili
7. Luke Braid
6. Steven Luatua
5. Ali Williams (C)
4. Culum Retallick
3. Charlie Faumuina
2. James Parsons
1. Tom McCartney
16. Quentin MacDonald
17. Angus Ta’avao
18. Anthony Boric
19. Brendon O’Connor
20. Jamison Gibson-Park
21. Baden Kerr
22. Jackson Willison