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'They'd be the favourites for sure': Crusaders halfback says rival Blues are frontrunners for title

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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The Blues won’t play their schedule opening round clash with Moana Pasifika this week, but will get to preview the other four Kiwi teams as they do battle in the opening round of Super Rugby Pacific over the weekend.

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The defending Trans-Tasman champions head into the season with a strong roster bolstered by high profile recruits after a successful off-season. According to Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall they are the favourites to take out the Super Rugby Pacific title.

Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, the Crusader was prepared to put the Blues ahead of his own team after the Auckland-based franchise took home the last Super Rugby title up for grabs.

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Aotearoa Rugby Pod | Episode 1
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Aotearoa Rugby Pod | Episode 1

“The last game played in Super Rugby, the Blues were champions and won that game against the Highlanders at Eden Park,” Hall said.

“I think with the recruitment they have done, there has been a lot of hype. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck would probably be in that hype XV at second five definitely.

“Luke Romano is a massive signing for the Blues, especially with Patty Tuipulotu and Gerard Cowley-Tuioti going away. Defensively in line outs, I know how big he was for us at the Crusaders with being able to suss out plans, have preview and review around what that looks like.

“Just the whole team there as well, with Beaudy back, he’s back into 10, he’ll shift in there nicely and they’ve just got depth in every position.

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“Yes we’ve had success in the past and we are looking to replicate that and continue to grow and get better at that.

“But I think the Blues, if you are going to look at one team this year, they’d be the favourites for sure.”

The Crusaders will open their quest for six titles in six years without their star first five Richie Mo’unga, who is sitting out the opening rounds of the season. That places extra responsibility on Fergus Burke and Simon Hickey to step up and guide the team who were seen during the pre-season.

With a close first hand look at the other 10s, Hall says they have impressed so far in pre-season and will be ready to fill the void left by their All Black 10.

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Hall likened the Crusaders situation at first five similar to that of the Chiefs, who are without Damian McKenzie and have a mixture of talent and experience with Josh Ioane, Bryn Gatland, Kaleb Trask and Rivez Reihana.

“I think both of our 10s have been great,” Hall said, “I think Ferg [Burke] has been around the environment now for three years, he’s been under Richie and learning off him for a couple of years.

“Being able to have a full Mitre 10 cup NPC under his belt last year leading that Canterbury team set him up nicely this pre-season.

“Bringing in the likes of Simon Hickey who is an experienced campaigner, he’s played in different environments, different countries, and coming back to New Zealand, his experience has been great.

“It’s very similar to the situation around the 10s at the Chiefs.”

Hall will have to compete for game time with Crusaders new halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, another capped All Black who has joined the side from the Chiefs. The position group has benefited in multiple ways as a result of Tahuriorangi joining the club he said.

“Trips [Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi] has been awesome, I got to spend time with him in the Maori’s camp. He’s just really cheeky and brings a great enthusiasm, something different for our group, especially culturally with that Maori mana he brings,” he said.

“We are very fortunate down south here, we have three great nines battling it out. We all have different strengths and different experience. Trips brought something else that Drummond and myself have been able to learn off.

“I think that is best thing about our group of halfbacks, even when Ere Enari was here as well, yes we are competitors and we want to compete against each other but anytime we can try to connect and evolve our games as a three, as a unit, it’s only going to better the overall group.

“We pride ourselves on trying to be the best in country, having the three best 9s in the country.”

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