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Crusaders welcome back big guns in overhauled team for Chiefs clash

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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The Crusaders have welcomed nine All Blacks and a host of key figures back into their starting lineup for their Super Rugby Pacific clash against the Chiefs in Christchurch on Saturday.

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All in all, head coach Scott Robertson has made a whopping 11 changes to his starting team from the second-string side that dispatched Moana Pasifika 33-12 at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin last Friday.

Those changes have yielded an entirely new backline featuring All Blacks quintet Richie Mo’unga, vice-captain David Havili, Braydon Ennor, Sevu Reece and Will Jordan, as well as halfback Bryn Hall and wing Leicester Fainga’anuku.

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The match acts as Mo’unga’s first starting appearance for the Crusaders after having missed the competition’s opening two rounds due to a clause in his contract.

The 27-year-old first-five made his first outing for the franchise from the bench last weekend, and has been entrusted by Robertson to don the No 10 jersey at Orangetheory Stadium.

Up front, the sole survivors of the win over Moana Pasifika are loose forwards Ethan Blackadder, Tom Christie and Pablo Matera, all of whom retain their starting roles in the back row, as well as young tighthead prop Fletcher Newell.

Aside from that, it’s an overhauled forward pack for the Crusaders, who welcome back All Blacks quartet Joe Moody, vice-captain Codie Taylor, captain Scott Barrett and Sam Whitelock to the run-on team.

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Like Mo’unga, Taylor will make his first starting appearance for the Crusaders this year after bagging a brace of tries from the bench against Moana Pasifika.

Young prop Tamaiti Williams, meanwhile, is the only player to retain his place on the bench from last week’s victory, although he has moved into the No 18 jersey after acting as cover for the loosehead prop role in Dunedin.

That has paved the way for All Blacks prop George Bower to return to the No 17 jersey, and he is joined by fellow internationals George Bridge, Cullen Grace and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi in the reserves.

The three remaining reserves are hooker Brodie McAlister, lock Mitchell Dunshea, and promising first-five Fergus Burke.

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“The intensity of a contest with the Chiefs is always going to be high and these are the type of games we relish as coaches,” Robertson said in a statement on Wednesday.

“They’re a tough, physical, well-coached side, and we’re going to have to perform right across the park.”

Kick-off for Friday’s match is scheduled for 7:05pm.

Crusaders team to play the Chiefs

1. Joe Moody
2. Codie Taylor (vc)
3. Fletcher Newell
4. Scott Barrett (c)
5. Sam Whitelock
6. Ethan Blackadder
7. Tom Christie
8. Pablo Matera
9. Bryn Hall
10. Richie Mo’unga
11. Leicester Fainga’anuku
12. David Havili (vc)
13. Braydon Ennor
14. Sevu Reece
15. Will Jordan

Reserves

16. Brodie McAlister
17. George Bower
18. Tamaiti Williams
19. Mitchell Dunshea
20. Cullen Grace
21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
22. Fergus Burke
23. George Bridge

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