The Crusaders’ horsemen may be missing but it hasn’t stopped them rolling out the cavalry in the front row stocks to face the Brumbies in Christchurch.
It will be the first game that doesn’t feature the imagery and branding that has accompanied the triumphant history of the nine-time champions.
New Zealand Rugby said the sword-wielding knights and horses are no longer tenable because of their association with the series of wars against Muslims of nearly 1000 years ago known as the “Crusades”.
The team’s name will be independently assessed and could also change before the 2020 season.
That off-field distraction won’t stop Robertson’s team providing a typically formidable opposition to the Brumbies.
Robertson has such depth at his disposal that he can afford to shift v eteran lock Sam Whitelock to the bench and omit star outside centre Jack Goodhue altogether as he rotates his resources.
All Blacks skipper Kieran Read takes over the captaincy from Whitelock.
Crusaders: David Havili, Will Jordan, Tim Bateman, Ryan Crotty, Sevu Reece, Richie Mo’unga, Mitchell Drummond, Kieran Read (capt), Matt Todd, Ethan Blackadder, Quinten Strange, Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Res: Ben Funnell, Harry Allan, Michael Alaalatoa, Sam Whitelock, Jordan Taufua, Bryn Hall, Brett Cameron, Leicester Faingaanuku.
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