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The players set to profit from Wales' new gameplan

With the Pivac era now a distant memory, Warren Gatland has a rich seam of talent to select from in the Six Nations

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Two key forwards ready to make a return to the Crusaders engine room

By Sam Smith
Joe Moody. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

There’s some good news on the injury front for the Crusaders ahead of the 2023 season.

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Two experienced forwards, prop Joe Moody and lock Mitch Dunshea, have both recovered well from major injuries suffered this year and should be back on deck for the Super Rugby Pacific champions when the competition kicks off in February.

Moody, the first-choice All Blacks loosehead, managed six appearances for the Crusaders in 2022 before his season came to a premature end in the rescheduled fourth round of Super Rugby when he ruptured his ACL against the Blues.

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Dunshea, meanwhile, underwent surgery on a knee injury in March.

“Joe Moody looks exceptional. And so does [Mitch] Dunshea,” said Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson on Thursday night.

“They’ve worked really, really hard and are available pre-season for us to play, which gives them a great lead-in to have a good season.

“They were both big injuries in rugby … so we’re just really stoked,” Robertson said. “I’m just happy for them because their hard work is paying off. [They] look like they did pre-injury, so good signs.”

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After missing the opening half of last year’s Test season, Moody was forced out of this year’s campaign in its entirety but will still be expected to play a major role at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

In the 34-year-old’s absence, Ethan de Groot established himself as one of the best scrummagers in the global game and firmly entrenched himself in the NZ No 1 jersey.

George Bower, Aidan Ross, Karl Tu’inukuafe and Ofa Tu’ungafasi were also all given opportunities on the loosehead side of the scrum this year but a fit Moody would certainly feature in Ian Foster’s plans for 2023 – and that appears to align with Moody’s aspirations.

“That is my goal for 2023; I want to be in the World Cup squad,” he told Stuff earlier this week. “I want to be the best Joe Moody that you’ve ever seen. I just want to be in great state, that’s definitely been the goal.”

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Dunshea, meanwhile, has been there or thereabouts when it’s come to All Blacks squad over the past few years, with the 27-year-old earning temporary selection in 2020 but never taking the field. Foster heavily relied upon Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick and Scott Barrett throughout this year’s campaign, rarely handing opportunities to back-ups Tupou Vaa’i and Patrick Tuipulotu, suggesting that there’s still a glimmer of hope for aspiring second-rowers around New Zealand who harbour dreams of featuring at France 2023.

The 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season will kick off on February 24 with the Crusaders playing host to the Chiefs in Christchurch.

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