Blues

Chiefs trust their depth as Michael Leitch returns to face the Blues in Hamilton

They've done so again for Friday night's highly anticipated Battle of the Bombays encounter against the Blues in Hamilton, with Michael Leitch back in the fold.

The back row has re-shuffled from the round one win over the Highlanders, with Leitch starting at No 8 and shifting Liam Messam to blindside flanker in place of Taleni Seu.

Sam Cane's continued absence (ankle) sees Lachlan Boshier take the No 7 jersey from Mitch Karpik, who drops out of the squad with Mitchell Brown, while Tom Sanders is promoted to the bench.

All Blacks Patrick Tuipulotu and Jerome Kaino bolster Blues bench for clash with Chiefs

Blues coach Tana Umaga named an unchanged starting XV after their impressive opening round demolition of the Melbourne Rebels last Thursday.

But he's been quick to add some star power to his impact options for the juicy second round clash with the Chiefs.

Umaga has six All Blacks, a Maori All Black and a New Zealand under-20s player on his bench.

This derby is usually a high-octane affair that often goes right down to the wire. Substitutions are sure to be hugely influential.

Rieko Ioane scores a hat-trick as Blues thump Melbourne Rebels in Super Rugby opener

Keeping a lid on hype might be Tana Umaga's biggest challenge after his Blues team opened the Super Rugby season with a performance befitting the competition's "boom, boom" slogan. The Melbourne Rebels were certainly left stunned by the 56-18 pounding.

The Blues have long struggled away from home but, in Melbourne on Thursday night, they took apart the battling Rebels to record their first victory at AAMI Park. Cracking the half century wasn't a bad way to celebrate.

Forget Sonny Bill Williams, Blues halfback Augustine Pulu could prove buy of the season

Every year the focus falls on the Blues No 10 jersey but the bloke inside him could prove more influential this season.

All the hype and expectation surrounding the Blues this year predominately emerged from the recruitment of Sonny Bill Williams. Now we know he won't feature for at least the first five weeks due to his recovery from an Achilles injury, Augustine Pulu could well prove a better piece of business.

Kaino supports permanent Pacific Super Rugby fixture

The Blues announced yesterday they will host the Reds in Apia in June.

It will be the first Super match played in Samoa and coincides with Samoa's 55th Independence Celebrations.

Fifteen players the Blues squad have Samoan heritage, along with head Coach Tana Umaga.

Jerome Kaino, who was born in American Samoa, said the team was already looking forward to the game.

"We're really proud of that fact that we're pioneers to be able to take that game to Samoa - you know being the first franchise to take it there. And it's only fitting that we get to do that.

The stat that backs a Maroons clean sweep

But the statistics suggest they're facing an uphill battle, with the Blues having never won a game in Sydney after trailing the series 2-0.

During their recent period of dominance Queensland have not only won 10 of the past 11 State of Origin series, they have also won every Game Three since 2009. 

Only Michael Jennings remains from the NSW 17 that won Game Three six year ago, with Gallen the only other Blues player to have won the final game of a series (in 2007).

Walker hopes for post-Origin lift

Walker was dished out more than his fair share of criticism after being afforded just nine minutes off the bench in Origin I but shook off that experience to put in a solid 80-minute effort in Game Two where despite conceding a handful of early penalties he was able to do an impressive job marking opposite number Greg Inglis.

Cronk's advice for new Blue Reynolds

While Cronk holds the undisputed mantle for calmness under pressure Reynolds' game has developed to the point that it not only delivered the Rabbitohs the 2014 Telstra Premiership but has him widely regarded as the owner of the best kicking game in the NRL.

It's a kicking game that will be put under more pressure than Reynolds has ever previously experienced next Wednesday night at ANZ Stadium as he and five-eighth James Maloney look to counter the stranglehold Cronk and Johnathan Thurston have had over Origin for the past five years.