Key All Blacks remain absent as Crusaders name team to take on Reds
Hooker Taylor and first five-eighth Mo’unga both missed last weekend’s comfortable 61-3 victory over the Fijian Drua due to injury and will now sit out a second week on the trot – but coach Scott Robertson has revealed that the two All Blacks are likely to be back on deck for next weekend’s quarter-final.
Mo’unga’s absence has once again been filled by Fergus Burke, who was one of the star performers in the big win over the Drua, while Brodie McAlister, who hasn’t featured since the Crusaders’ Round 2 clash with the Highlanders, will make a welcome return from injury in the No 2 jersey in place of Ricky Jackson.
Ethan Blackadder is the sole loose forward survivor from last weekend but shifts from number 8 to the openside flank. Pablo Matera will play at blindside flanker while Cullen Grace will wear the No 8 jersey.
Bryn Hall gets his fifth start in a row at halfback and will partner Burke while David Havili comes into the side in place of Jack Goodhue, who will miss this weekend’s match.
All in all, Robertson has made nine positional changes to the side that ran out against the Drua last weekend.
“Richie’s had a finger injury that we felt like another week would be the best for it – just like Codie,” Robertson said of his injured All Blacks. “Just make sure they rest up and get as much recovery time as possible.
“We had a discussion. If he was required, he could play. Ferg was pretty awesome the week before … It speaks for [Mo’unga’s importance] and his injury to make sure we give him an extra week.
“[Taylor] could have played this weekend as well. That was a relief when the medical said he could play but Brodie McAlister’s back – he’s come back from a long-term injury. It’s timely for us. He’s a hell of a player.”
While the Crusaders have locked up a home quarter-final, they need a victory against the Reds to guarantee themselves hosting rights for a semi-final, should they progress to that stage of the competition. As such, all focus remains on this Friday’s fixture.
“Looks like we’ll have a good occasion on Friday night and a good crowd coming in,” Robertson said. “Full respect, last time we played them they were a team that pushed us – just their style, the way they played. When they’re on, they’re good. They’ve got enough game-breakers so full respect in our preparations this week.”
Friday’s match is set to kick off at the later time of 7:35pm NZT.
Crusaders: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, David Havili, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Fergus Burke, Bryn Hall, Cullen Grace, Ethan Blackadder, Pablo Matera, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Oli Jager, Brodie McAlister, George Bower. Reserves: Ricky Jackson, Finlay Brewis, Tamaiti Williams, Zach Gallagher, Tom Christie, Mitchell Drummond, Chay Fihaki, George Bridge.
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