The Crusaders squad for 2020 has been named, with a number of debutants in the side, and some familiar faces who will be named in the 38-man squad for the first time.

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The official announcement of all five New Zealand Super Rugby squads is live on Sky Sport this evening, and head coach Scott Robertson is in attendance to reveal his Crusaders team for Super Rugby’s 25th season.

Robertson said: “This is an exciting new era for the Crusaders, and an opportunity for some talented young players to step up in the Super Rugby environment. We farewelled a number of highly experienced players and great men at the end of last season, who have set this year’s squad up to build on our success. It’s exciting to embrace a new chapter of Crusaders rugby, which starts with the naming of our squad tonight.”

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Of the 12 new Crusaders, six players have progressed through the Crusaders academy (Fergus Burke, Tom Christie, Inga Finau, Cullen Grace, Brodie McAlister, Dallas McLeod) and the group represents six provincial unions across New Zealand; Canterbury, Tasman, Otago, Waikato, North Harbour and Northland. Four players also have Super Rugby caps to their name already – Sevu Reece, Brodie McAlister, Isi Tuungafasi and George Bower were all capped during the 2019 season.

“Crusaders fans will be familiar with wing Sevu Reece,” Robertson said. “He was our 2019 Rookie of the Year after joining the squad as an injury replacement and making the most of his opportunity at Super Rugby level. An exciting and instinctive player, we’re looking forward to welcoming Sevu back following his debut Rugby World Cup campaign with the All Blacks.

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“We also welcome front-rowers Brodie, Isi and George as full squad members this season. Brodie was a New Zealand Schools representative who, at just 22, has had to overcome some adversity with injury early in his career. He had some valuable game time for Canterbury in the Mitre 10 Cup recently and is a promising addition for us at hooker.

“George Bower is another great addition to our squad having made a really meaningful contribution at prop in 2019. He’s an agile and skilful front rower, who can play either side of the scrum, and he’s a really popular team man as well so we look forward to giving him further opportunities with the Crusaders in 2020.

“I coached Isi with the New Zealand Under 20 side back in 2015 and he’s a young prop who impressed us during his time here last season. He first represented Auckland at provincial level before making the move to Northland in 2018 for more opportunities, and it’s great to have him return to Christchurch ahead of our 2020 campaign,” Robertson said.

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Of the uncapped players joining the squad, there are four forwards and four backs.

“Ethan Roots is a strong, abrasive loose forward/lock option for us, who had a brilliant Mitre 10 Cup season for North Harbour. We’re excited to unlock the potential in this promising East Coast Bays club representative,” Robertson said.

“Sione Havili will also join our loose forwards as a powerful ball carrier and defender, who had his 2018 season cut short through injury but was superb in the Tasman Mako pack in 2019.

“Tom Christie and Cullen Grace complete our loose forward group for 2020 – both are former UC Championship players who represented New Zealand Secondary Schools’, Canterbury Under 19s, and the New Zealand Under 20 side. Tom has shown plenty of leadership qualities having captained the Under 20s, and Cullen impressed in his debut provincial season as a loose forward who has the ability to play lock.

“Fetuli Paea caps off a brilliant season for the Mako with Super Rugby selection. He has represented Tonga in both the sevens and 15’s game, is an explosive ball carrier, and gives us options with his ability to play a number of backline positions.

“Inga Finau took a year off from professional rugby in 2018 to pursue his studies, returned for Canterbury this season and impressed as a strong, physical ball carrier capable of making an impact in the midfield. He has big shoes to fill with the departure of some highly experienced midfielders, but Inga is a quality footballer and we can’t wait to see what he can do on the Super Rugby stage.

“Completing our playing roster for 2020 are young backs Fergus Burke and Dallas McLeod, who made their debuts for Canterbury this season. Fergus was a member of the New Zealand Under 20 side this year, while Dallas was Vice-Captain of that team for the Junior World Championship in Argentina. At just 20 years of age, we believe both have great futures ahead of them, and we look forward to having all of our 2020 rookies assemble as part of our Crusaders squad for the pre-season in a couple of week’s time,” Robertson said.

In the absence of Sam Whitelock in 2020, Robertson has also named a new Captain in Scott Barrett, and said the lock is a natural choice to lead the side in his sixth season with the Crusaders: “Scott has a phenomenal work ethic, and produces consistent performances for the Crusaders. He’s well-respected by his team mates as well as the coaching and management group, has great character and helps drive our team culture so we see him as a natural fit to Captain the side and congratulate Scooter on this exciting opportunity.”

The Crusaders squad will officially assemble to commence their pre-season on 28th November, with the All Blacks due to return in the New Year.

CRUSADERS 2020 SQUAD

FORWARDS: Michael Alaalatoa, Harry Allan, Scott Barrett (c), Ethan Blackadder, George Bower, Tom Christie, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Mitchell Dunshea, Cullen Grace, Billy Harmon, Sione Havili, Oliver Jager, Andrew Makalio, Brodie McAlister, Joe Moody, Luke Romano, Ethan Roots, Tom Sanders, Quinten Strange, Codie Taylor, Isi Tuungafasi.

BACKS: George Bridge, Fergus Burke, Brett Cameron, Mitchell Drummond, Ere Enari, Braydon Ennor, Leicester Faingaanuku, Inga Finau, Jack Goodhue, Bryn Hall, David Havili, Will Jordan, Manasa Mataele, Dallas McLeod, Richie Mo’unga, Fetuli Paea, Sevu Reece.

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In: Sevu Reece, Dallas McLeod, Tom Christie, George Bower, Cullen Grace, Sione Havili, Brodie McAlister, Ethan Roots, Isi Tuungafasi, Fergus Burke, Inga Finau, Fetuli Paea.

Out: Tim Bateman (retired), Ryan Crotty (Japan), Israel Dagg (retired), Owen Franks (UK), Ben Funnell (Japan), Mitchell Hunt (Highlanders), Tim Perry, Ngane Punivai (Highlanders), Kieran Read (Japan), Jordan Taufua (UK), Matt Todd (Japan), Sam Whitelock (Japan sabbatical)

– Crusaders Rugby

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