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Brumbies bring back top performers to face Crusaders on title anniversary

By Ned Lester
Noah Lolesio of the Brumbies celebrates the victory during the round six Super Rugby Pacific match between Queensland Reds and ACT Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium, on March 30, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

The Brumbies have been adamant about not taking the 11th-placed Crusaders lightly as they host the struggling reigning champs in Canberra in round 13.

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The heavyweights will have some special guests in attendance this week as the 2004 champions come together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their final triumph over the Crusaders.

The team are excited by the opportunity to add another of their own positive chapter to the rivalry with the perennial champs.

“Every week, whoever comes up against the Crusaders, the first thing they say is they aren’t actually taking any notice of where they’re sitting on the ladder,” fullback Tom Wright said.

“The strike power they’ve got and the respect they’ve earned over the years, they have the ability to hurt you whether they’re 20-nil up or 20-nil down.

“The Crusaders are a big club in this competition and have been for a long time.”

James Slipper returns to the starting XV for the contest, joining Connal McInerney and captain Allan Alaalatoa in the front row.

Nick Frost will shift to the blindside flank for a change, making way for a second-row partnership of Darcy Swain and Cadeyrn Neville.

Frost will be joined by Jahrome Brown on the openside flank and Rob Valentini at No. 8.

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Looking to play on top of that strong forward pack will be halfback Ryan Lonergan, who lines up inside returning Wallaby Noah Lolesio who enjoyed a rest week in round 12.

Form midfield partnership Tamati Tua and Len Ikitau retain their starting roles and will be looking to get the lethal pace of their back three involved in the contest.

Ollie Sapsford and Andy Muirhead are set to don the No. 11 and 14 jerseys respectively while Tom Wright will wear his familiar No. 15.

The bench features some firepower in Wallaby Tom Hooper, as well as round 12 starter Jack Debreczeni. Outside of those changes, the bench remains as it was last weekend.

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Brumbies team to face the Crusaders

  1. James Slipper
  2. Connal McInerney
  3. Allan Alaalatoa (c)
  4. Darcy Swain
  5. Cadeyrn Neville
  6. Nick Frost
  7. Jahrome Brown
  8. Rob Valetini
  9. Ryan Lonergan
  10. Noah Lolesio
  11. Ollie Sapsford
  12. Tamati Tua
  13. Len Ikitau
  14. Andy Muirhead
  15. Tom Wright

Reserves

16. Liam Bowron
17. Rhys van Nek
18. Sosefo Kautai
19. Tom Hooper
20. Luke Reimer
21. Harrison Goddard
22. Jack Debreczeni
23. Ben O’Donnell

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Jon 3 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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