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Return of Richie Mo'unga headlines new-look Crusaders for GF rematch

By Finn Morton
Crusaders' Richie Mo'unga (2nd R) celebrates scoring a try with teammate Braydon Ennor (2nd L) during the Super Rugby match between the Canterbury Crusaders and the Otago Highlanders at the AAMI Park in Melbourne on March 3, 2023. (Photo by William WEST / AFP via Gettys Images)

The return of playmaker Richie Mo’unga headlines a new-look Crusaders team, as the title holders look to get their season back on track against the Blues in round four.

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After starting their season with a disastrous 21-point loss to the Chiefs at home, the Crusaders bounce back with a win over the Highlanders in Super Round.

But things took a surprising turn in Lautoka on Saturday as a Kemu Valetini penalty goal in the 83rd minute handed the Crusaders their second defeat of the campaign.

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But the Crusaders will be eager to bounce back in a rematch of last year’s Super Rugby Pacific final, and have called on some world-class reinforcements in preparation for battle.

Richie Mo’unga and Braydon Ennor are among the 11 All Blacks who could take the field for the Crusaders at Eden Park on Saturday.

“It’s going to be a hell of a weekend,” coach Scott Robertson said in a statement.

“We’ve had some historic games over the last few years haven’t we?

“They beat us at home, we’ve beat them up there and they’ve got some awesome rugby players playing for them.”

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Defending Super Rugby champions the Crusaders have made nine changes to their starting XV, which includes a familiar looking front row of Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Tamaiti Williams.

All Blacks locks Scott Barrett and Sam Whitelock will pack down alongside each other in the second-row once again this week – they’re two of just six players to have retained their place in the starting side.

Flanker Ethan Blackadder returns to the matchday line-up this weekend, and will run out alongside backrowers Tom Christie and Sione Havili Talitui.

As for the backline, All Blacks Mitchell Drummond and Richie Mo’unga will partner each other in the halves.

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Dallas McLeod and Braydon Ennor have been named in the midfield, while Leicester Fainga’anuku and Sevu Reece are set to start on the wings. Utility back Fergus Burke will start in the No. 15 jumper.

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“It’s another big game for us, another great opportunity for our players to go out and perform at a great local derby,” Robertson added.

The highly anticipated grand final rematch is set to get underway at 7:05pm NZT at Eden Park.

 

Crusaders team to take on the Blues

  1. Joe Moody
  2. Codie Taylor
  3. Tamaiti Williams
  4. Scott Barrett
  5. Sam Whitelock
  6. Ethan Blackadder
  7. Tom Christie
  8. Sione Havili Talitui
  9. Mitchell Drummond
  10. Richie Mo’unga
  11. Leicester Fainga’anuku
  12. Dallas McLeod
  13. Braydon Ennor
  14. Sevu Reece
  15. Fergus Burke

 

Replacements:

  1. Brodie McAlister
  2. Kershawl Sykes-Martin
  3. George Bower
  4. Zach Gallagher
  5. Christian Lio-Willie
  6. Willi Heinz
  7. Pepesana Patafilo
  8. Macca Springer
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