11 Mar 2015

Blues players stand by Kirwan

3:27 pm on 11 March 2015

The Blues players are standing by their embattled coach Sir John Kirwan, as the pressure mounts following their poor start to the Super Rugby season.

Luke Braid (L) with Blues coach Sir John Kirwan.

Luke Braid (L) with Blues coach Sir John Kirwan. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

They're winless through their first four matches and already face an uphill battle to make the playoffs for the first time in four years.

That's raised questions over Kirwan's future with the franchise, but the stand-in captain Luke Braid is insistent he still has the support of the playing squad.

"We've already said it every time you've tried to ask what we feel about JK and obviously his coach and we've got his back for the whole season, there's no way we're backing out of him," Braid told reporters before Wednesday morning's training session.

Braid will lead the side this week as they search for their first win against the unbeaten Hurricanes, with Jerome Kaino ruled out after failing a concussion test, and he says it's execution, not a poor approach tactically, that's let them down so far.

"It's just our decision making, the game plans are right, but it's our decision making at certain times when you take the ball," he says, referencing Saturday's 13-10 loss to the Lions where they were held up over the line four times.

"We probably did a few too many pick and gos and stopped our momentum and then when our backs took the ball we didn't have front foot ball so we've just got to get that right.

The veteran hooker Keven Mealamu echoes his team-mate's sentiments after becoming the most capped Super Rugby player of all time on Saturday night.

"We've got to look at this as a team thing, not just the coaches it's players as well, we're all in this together," he told reporters.

"When you look back to the last four games it's just key moments where we've let the foot off the throat and let the other team come back into the game, so if we can win those key moments it will really change for us."

Kirwan himself is also adamant the franchise is heading in the right direction and says he has no plans to leave his post.

"I want to be here for five years," he says. "I've come home to do a job and I'm not going to leave until it's finished."

Kirwan's task to get an elusive win this weekend is made harder by the absence of Kaino and with the halfback Jimmy Cowan in doubt with a knee strain.

Kaino passed a concussion test when he came off for a blood bin in the first half against the Lions but didn't pass the test the next day, so he's automatically stood down.

Brendon O'Connor starts on the flank with Steven Luatua moving to No.8.

Blues: Lolagi Visinia, Frank Halai, Charles Piutau, Francis Saili, Melani Nanai, Ihaia West, Jimmy Cowan/Jamison Gibson-Park; Steven Luatua, Luke Braid (c), Brendon O'Connor, Patrick Tuipolotu, Josh Bekhuis, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Tony Woodcock

Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Angus Ta'avao/Sam Prattley, Hayden Triggs, Akira Ioane, Jamison Gibson-Park/Bryn Hall, Simon Hickey, George Moala.