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Crusaders name three debutants for Drua clash in Fiji

By Ben Smith
Scrum for Fijian Drua and Crusaders during the round three Super Rugby Pacific match between Fiji Drua and Crusaders at Churchill Park, on March 11, 2023, in Lautoka, Fiji. (Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

The Crusaders have named three debutants on their bench as they look to get their season back on track against the Fijian Drua at Churchill Park in Lautoka.

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Flanker Tahlor Cahill, outside back Jone Rova and first five-eighth Riley Hohepa have all been named on the bench to debut in Fiji.

After starting 0-2 the Crusaders face the daunting task of toppling the Drua at home where they have proven to be a formidable opponent for New Zealand sides.

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The Crusaders have kept their forward pack in tact from the 37-24 defeat to the Waratahs as openside Tom Christie prepares for his 50th game for the club.

Fixture
Super Rugby Pacific
Fijian Drua
20 - 10
Full-time
Crusaders
All Stats and Data

George Bower, George Bell and Fletcher Newell pack down in the front row while Ioane Moananu, Kershawl Sykes-Martin, and Seb Calder deputise on the bench.

Quinten Strange and Scott Barrett start in the second row with impressive lock Jamie Hannah the bench cover. Dom Gardiner, Christie and Cullen Grace form the back row with debutant Tahlor Cahill named in the No 20 jersey.

There are two changes to the backline with veteran Willi Heinz getting the start at halfback over Noah Hotham, who drops out of the game day squad. Mitchell Drummond has been named on the bench.

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Heinz will partner Taha Kemara in the halves who will start at first five-eighth for the second straight week.

David Havili and Levi Aumua form the midfield once again while Manasa Mataele has been named on the left wing with Macca Springer dropping out of the squad. Sevu Reece has been named on the right with Chay Fihaki at No 15.

Crusaders team to play Fijian Drua:

1. George Bower
2. George Bell
3. Fletcher Newell
4. Scott Barrett
5. Quinten Strange
6. Dom Gardiner
7. Tom Christie
8. Cullen Grace
9. Willi Heinz
10. Taha Kemara
11. Manasa Mataele
12. David Havili
13. Levi Aumua
14. Sevu Reece
15. Chay Fihaki

Reserves

16. Ioane Moananu
17. Kershawl Sykes-Martin
18. Seb Calder
19. Jamie Hannah
20. Tahlor Cahill*
21. Mitchell Drummond
22. Jone Rova*
23. Riley Hohepa*

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*debutants

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Jon 1 days 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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