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The third round of Super Rugby kicks off with a game between the competition’s first two title-winners as they both look to record their second win of the season.
Both Kiwi sides have bested the Waratahs – the Crusaders did it home in round one while the Blues managed a solid victory in NSW last week – and they were both undone by the Chiefs having led their respective fixtures at half-time.
Blues coach Leon MacDonald has largely kept the faith with the side which achieved five competition points over the weekend and made just two changes, bringing All Blacks James Parsons and Ofa Tu’ungafasi into the starting team for the first time this year.
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It’s a similar story for the Crusaders, who have changed their halves combo, bringing in Richie Mo’unga (who was unavailable for the match against the Chiefs) and Bryn Hall, and promoted youngster Cullen Grace to a starting role in the loose forwards thanks to an injury to Whetukamokamo Douglas.
“When the Super Rugby schedule comes out you always look first for the Crusaders game,” said Blues head coach Leon MacDonald. “They are the benchmark.
“It is the game where the hairs on the back of your neck bristle and this one will be no different.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 14, 2020
In last year’s derby at Eden Park, the Crusaders led 12-3 at halftime. The Blues raced back into the match in the second half, however, taking a 17-12 lead at one point and scoring one of the tries of the season in the process.
Two penalty tries and two to Manasa Mataele ultimately gave the Crusaders a 24-22 win away from home, however.
The Blues will be counting on the forwards to give them a better platform this year with the Crusaders losing masses of experience in their squad since last year.
Blues forwards coach is counting on exactly that.
“They’ve shown for a while now that when they’re under the pump they go to their scrum. They go to their lineout and try to pick penalties off it,” said Coventry. “They try to find faults in your concentration levels so we need to be right up there throughout the match.
“It would be nice to turn the tables a little bit, wouldn’t it – but we’ll just be looking for parity and see what happens in that battle.”
The match kicks off at 7:05PM (NZT) from Eden Park in Auckland.
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