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Pride on the line for Blues in Japan

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Lynn McConnell     14 Jul 2017     Getty Images

It was the last game of the season for both sides and he would expect Sunwolves coach Filo Tiatia to have the home side come out firing for a one-off game in front of their home crowd.

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Umaga said the Blues were playing for pride and they wanted to finish well not only for the Blues but for their players who were moving on.

There was also the fact it was the side's first game in Japan and they wanted to mark that with a good performance.

"The toughest thing for us is having not played for four weeks and knowing we were coming over here for a one-off game against a team that has been battling really and making sure we keep our motivation levels up," he said.

The team had gone up to Tokyo last week to not only acclimatise but to check which players were best motivated.

They needed players who were up for the game and couldn't afford an attitude that a win was just going to happen and that playing on a 'wave of emotion' was going to pull them through.

"We still need to play hard for 80 minutes and some people are better at getting themselves up for these kinds of things than others," he said.
It was also clear in the heat from their warm-up game against Honda last week that the conditions would take their toll and everyone in the 23 would be used, and probably earlier than usual.

Umaga said departing players prop Charlie Faumuina and loose forward Steven Luatua had a passion for the Blues and had given leadership in the growth of the side. There had been issues of consistency in the past but the pair had stepped up and lifted the leadership in the group.

First five-eighths Ihaia West was also leaving, to join the Hurricanes. He had been thrown into the fire when he first started with the Blues and he had grown as a player but it was unlucky for the Blues that they couldn't hold all the players they now had available at first five-eighths.

"I still have a lot of faith in what he can do and we're going to miss him," Umaga said.

While there was frustration not to be playing in the quarter finals, Umaga said the Blues had only themselves to blame. Being one of the four New Zealand teams, and not just the fourth, had been the goal and they hadn't achieved it.

He said he had got over the fact a long time ago that they would have more points than others who were in the quarter finals.

"The overall points table that's not probably something I think about really," he said.