Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall will make his 100th Super Rugby appearance against his former side, the Blues, at Eden Park in Auckland on Sunday.
The 32-year-old has been named to start in the No. 9 jersey for the heavyweight battle between the two title frontrunners in what will be a full-circle moment in his playing career.
Hall started his time in Super Rugby with the Blues in 2013 and went on to make 32 appearances for the Auckland-based franchise before moving south to the Crusaders ahead of the 2017 season.
The five-cap Maori All Black has since become a regular starter at the Crusaders, playing a key role in all four of the Christchurch-based franchise’s title-winning seasons following his arrival at Orangetheory Stadium.
Hall started in all three of his side’s grand final victories over the Lions in 2017 and 2018 as well as their 2019 win over the Jaguares.
He also started in his side’s win over the Highlanders to secure the inaugural Super Rugby Aotearoa title last year and has created a formidable halves partnership with star playmaker Richie Mo’unga.
The pair will again run out at No. 9 and No. 10 this weekend as part of an unchanged starting backline that features five All Blacks.
There are some alterations in the forward pack, though, as blindside flanker Ethan Blackadder (concussion) and No. 8 Cullen Grace (ribs) return from injury to form a new-look loose forward trio that also features Sione Havili Talitui, who comes into the side in place of Tom Christie, who has suffered a dislocated shoulder.
Elsewhere, All Blacks loosehead prop Joe Moody reclaims his place in the starting front row, swapping places with George Bower who has been named on the bench.
He is joined by three other new faces – injury returnee Oli Jager, last week’s starting No. 8 Whetu Douglas and one-test All Blacks halfback Mitchell Drummond – in the reserves.
Kick-off for Sunday’s match is scheduled for 3:35pm NZT.
Crusaders team to face the Blues on Sunday
1. Joe Moody
2. Codie Taylor (vc)
3. Michael Alaalatoa
4. Scott Barrett (c)
5. Sam Whitelock
6. Ethan Blackadder
7. Sione Havili Talitui
8. Cullen Grace
9. Bryn Hall
10. Richie Mo’unga
11. Leicester Fainga’anuku
12. David Havili (vc)
13. Jack Goodhue
14. Sevu Reece
15. Will Jordan
16. Brodie McAlister
17. George Bower
18. Oli Jager
19. Quinten Strange
20. Whetukamokamo Douglas
21. Mitchell Drummond
22. Fergus Burke
23. Dallas McLeod
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