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Richie Mo'unga set for milestone match against Moana Pasifika

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Playmaker Richie Mo’unga will play his 100th match in Crusaders colours on Friday night when the defending Super Rugby Pacific champions take on Moana Pasifika in Christchurch.

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Mo’unga will raise the bat for the Crusaders later this week when he runs out onto the same stadium he debuted at seven years ago.

Since making his debut in the opening round of the 2016 season against the Chiefs, Mo’unga has led the decorated franchise to six titles in as many years.

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The 44-Test All Black is set to leave the Crusaders and New Zealand Rugby behind after this year’s World Cup after inking a three-year deal with Toshiba Brave Lupus in Japan.

Ahead of his milestone match, the 28-year-old said that he always wanted to play 100 matches for the famous franchise.

“Ever since I walked through those doors at Rugby Park and saw how celebrated centurions are, it was pretty clear I wanted to be one myself,” Mo’unga said in a statement.

Mo’unga’s milestone headlines a star-studded team naming for the Crusaders, as the title holders welcome back a number of players from injury stints.

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Quinten Strange will replace Scott Barrett in the No. 4 jersey this week, while Macca Springer and Jack Goodhue have also been named to return.

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Finlay Brewis and All Black David Havili are also available this week, and will be ready if called upon after being selected on the Crusaders’ bench.

“It’s awesome to have those guys back,” coach Scott Robertson said.

“Moana are power athletes and when they get it right, they’re dangerous.

“Tamati Ellison ahs been really clear about what we need to achieve defensively, so we’ll be showing them the respect they deserve by preparing well.”

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After beating the Reds in Brisbane last week, the Crusaders have made seven changes to their starting XV to take on Moana Pasifika.

Other than Quinten Strange at lock, Corey Kellow is the only other change in the forward pack – with the 21-year-old set to start in the coveted No. 7 jersey.

Mitchell Drummond has returned to the run-on side this week, and will partner milestone man Mo’unga in the halves.

In-form utility back Leicester Fainga’anuku will join Goodhue in the midfield after shifting to outside centre from the left wing.

Macca Springer and Will Gualter have been included in a new-look outside back trio this week – the latter being handed his first start for the Crusaders.

Crusaders team to take on Moana Pasifika

  1. Joe Moody
  2. Codie Taylor
  3. Tamaiti Williams
  4. Quinten Strange
  5. Dominic Gardiner
  6. Sione Havili Talitui
  7. Corey Kellow
  8. Christian Lio-Willie
  9. Mitchell Drummond
  10. Richie Mo’unga
  11. Macca Springer
  12. Jack Goodhue
  13. Leicester Fainga’anuku
  14. Will Gualter
  15. Fergus Burke

Replacements:

  1. Brodie McAlister
  2. Finlay Brewis
  3. Seb Calder
  4. Jamie Hannah
  5. Tom Christie
  6. Willi Heinz
  7. David Havili
  8. Melani Nanai
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Jon 2 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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