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Crusaders light up front but still name 12 All Blacks for Chiefs rematch

By Tom Vinicombe
Scott Barrett. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

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While there are still fears that the Crusaders might not be able to field a team, they’ve managed to name an impressive match-day squad for their second match on the trot with the high-flying Chiefs.

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Coach Scott Robertson has named eight All Blacks in the run-on side for the Saturday evening encounter and a further four on the bench. The Crusaders will be looking to get one back over the Chiefs after Clayton McMillan’s men scored a rare victory in Christchurch just two weekends ago and with the Crusaders not playing a match last weekend due to the number of Covid cases within the squad, they’ve had plenty of time to stew over the loss.

While Robertson’s team still looks strong as a whole, it’s a lack of available bodies in the front row that could still see Saturday’s match postponed at the last minute.

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With Joe Moody out of action and young Abraham Pole heading to the Highlanders, 22-year-old debutant Finlay Brewis has been named to start at loosehead prop with George Bower providing cover off the bench. Oli Jage, meanwhile, will make his return from injury on the tighthead side of the scrum in place of Fletcher Newell – also unavailable – with Tamaiti Williams backing up via the reserves. Brodie McAlister caps off the front row with Codie Taylor named in the No 16 jersey.

It’s a case of one All Black in, one All Black out in the second row with captain Scott Barrett taking the place of Sam Whitelock. Quinten Strange holds his spot in the lineup while Mitch Dunshea comes onto the bench after last featuring against Moana Pasifika in Round 3.

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A strong loose forward trio has been named with All Blacks Ethan Blackadder and Cullen Grace teaming up with tackling tyro Tom Christie while Corey Kellow has been named on the bench (although Dominic Gardiner has been bracketed).

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There are just three positional changes in the backline from the last time the Crusaders took on the Chiefs with Leicester Fainga’anuku shifting from wing to centre to cover in the absence of Braydon Ennor, George Bridge taking over the No 11 jersey and Chay Fihaki handed a rare start in place of Sevu Reece, who will add impact from the bench.

With Bryn Hall and Richie Mo’unga against combining in the halves, Mitch Drummond and Fergus Burke will cover from the reserves.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, have also named a side boasting plenty of All Blacks but will be missing the services of Pita Gus Sowakula.

The Crusaders kick-started their season with three wins in a row before falling to the Chiefs in Christchurch. Both teams have now secured three matches from their four games played this season and while the Crusaders currently sit atop the New Zealand sides on the overall Super Rugby Pacific ladder, a loss in Hamilton would see them slip behind the Chiefs.

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The rematch between the two sides kicks off at 7:05pm NZT on Saturday evening from Waikato Stadium.

Crusaders: Will Jordan, Chay Fihaki, Leicester Fainga’anuku, David Havili, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Cullen Grace, Tom Christie, Ethan Blackadder, Quinten Strange, Scott Barrett, Oli Jager, Brodie McAlister, Finlay Brewis. Reserves: Codie Taylor, George Bower, Tamaiti Williams, Mitch Dunshea, Corey Kellow, Mitchell Drummond, Fergus Burke, Sevu Reece.

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