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Blues defeat could send Lam to the slaughter

Date

Neil Harvey, Alastair Bull

If Melbourne Rebels coach Damien Hill is feeling pressure, he can spare a thought for Blues rival Pat Lam when their teams meet in tonight's Super Rugby match.

The two sides share last place in the competition with South Africa's Lions with dismal 1-5 records, but there the comparison ends.

Hill is just starting his tenure with a team that is only expected to improve a bit on last year's debut season when they finished last with three wins.

Lam is coming off contract with the high-profile Auckland-based Blues and was expected to make them title contenders once more after adding the likes of All Blacks stars Ma'a Nonu and Piri Weepu to a strong roster.

Lam says he understands the pressure he and his Blues team are under from critics after losses to the Crusaders, Chiefs, Stormers and Hurricanes and tries to treat it as a positive.

''For us, ultimately, we're going to be judged on results, and that's why we're getting a hammering, and rightly so,'' Lam said.

''We haven't been getting the results.

''We've got to make sure we focus day-to-day, week-to-week.

''It's good people are passionate about the game.

''If they weren't, then maybe I wouldn't really look deep down at myself at what I need to do.''

Central to the Blues' problems in recent years is the inability to settle a class playmaker.

Lam used All Blacks World Cup halfback Weepu in the flyhalf role in their desperately-close loss to the Hurricanes last start but has dumped him to the bench for the Rebels clash at Melbourne's AAMI Park.

He's recalled 20-year-old flyhalf Gareth Anscombe, who scored all the Blues' points in their sole victory this season against the Bulls in Pretoria. He has also regained X-factor winger Rene Ranger from a suspension incurred in that game.

Anscombe will try to outwit English star Danny Cipriani, who returns from a hamstring strain to pilot the Rebels as they attempt to cure their tendency to fade in the second half following promising starts.

Cipriani's direction will be welcome, with Wallaby James O'Connor moving out to add midfield thrust after playing at pivot in the Rebels' 43-12 loss to the Highlanders last week.

In that match, the Rebels had the better of the first half with stirring defence and went to the break at 12-12 before conceding a string of tries.

Hill yesterday insisted his team was on the right track.

''The confidence in the group is there,'' said Hill.

''They know it's just a matter of getting our decision-making and execution better which is what we work on at training.'' AAP

TONIGHT

Super Rugby round six: Melbourne Rebels v Auckland Blues at AAMI Park, 7.40pm.

TV time: Live on Fox Sports 3.

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