Scott Barrett and Jack Goodhue get positional shifts for Crusaders' clash with Drua
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has made a swathe of changes to his side for their upcoming match with the Fijian Drua in Christchurch.
Currently sitting level with the Brumbies on competition points but behind them in third place on the overall ladder due to a worse win-loss ratio, the Crusaders need two wins in the final two rounds of the Super Rugby Pacific regular season to give them their best chance of jumping into second spot.
But with a number of players once again available following injuries and illness, as well as a number of All Blacks still requiring a week off, Robertson has opted to rotate his side for their clash with the electric Drua.
The seven big omissions from Friday’s line-up are front-rowers George Bower and Codie Taylor, loose forwards Pablo Matera and Cullen Grace, first five-eighth Richie Mo’unga, midfielder David Havili and fullback Will Jordan. All seven internationals have been major contributors for the Crusaders this season, with Taylor and Mo’unga making nine appearances to date and the remaining contingent hitting double figures.
There are also two intriguing positional changes to the team with captain Scott Barrett moving from the second row to blindside flanker and Jack Goodhue shifting in one place from outside centre to second five.
With Mo’unga out of the team, Fergus Burke earns a fourth start in the No 10 jersey and will link up with the experienced Bryn Hall.
Goodhue’s shift into 12 means his partnership with Braydon Ennor is reunited for just the second time since 2020 – a partnership coach Robertson once indicated could be the long-term solution to the Crusaders midfield.
In the outside backs, Leicester Fainga’anuku will earn his 10th start of the season while right wing Sevu Reece will get the chance to play against his fellow Fijians. Jordan’s absence hands Chay Fihaki his sixth Super Rugby cap.
On the bench, hooker Shilo Klein makes a first appearance since his red card incurred against the Highlanders at the start of April and will be joined by Tamaiti Willilams, Oli Jager, Dominic Gardiner and Corey Kellow as cover in the forwards. Experienced backs Mitchell Drummond, Simon Hickey and George Bridge round out the 23.
Friday night’s match between the Crusaders and Drua is due to kick off at 7:05pm NZT from Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch.
Crusaders: Chay Fihaki, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Fergus Burke, Bryn Hall, Ethan Blackadder, Tom Christie, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Zach Gallagher, Fletcher Newell, Ricky Jackson, Finlay Brewis. Reserves: Shilo Klein, Tamaiti Williams, Oli Jager, Dominic Gardiner, Corey Kellow, Mitchell Drummond, Simon Hickey, George Bridge.
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