Crusaders

Reconditioning All Blacks to face Stormers

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All six of the players who have recently returned from the All Blacks’ World Cup conditioning programme have been included in the Crusaders starting XV for Super 14 Round Eight match against the Stormers in Christchurch in Saturday.

Their return is one feature of a line-up that also includes a five-two split among the run on reserves, with fly-half Stephen Brett and scrum-half Kevin Senio the only backs named on the replacements bench.

“We’ve got plenty of versatility in our squad, especially among the backs, which allows us to cover all eventualities,” Crusaders coach Robbie Deans said.

“The breakdown of the match day squad for this week simply reflects where we feel that our biggest challenges will lie.”

Deans says it was important to get the returning international players underway “as soon as was possible” in order to get them back involved, and immersed in the team culture.

“They’re all keen to play. Some of them might not be able to go the full eighty at this stage of their preparation, but the sooner we get them involved, the sooner we will get them up to full speed.”

Nor does Deans believe the mass personnel changes – there are seven in total – to the side that eclipsed the Bulls impressively 32-10 last weekend, in any way indicates a lack of respect for the Stormers.

“Not at all. We’re bringing back some class performers,” he said.

“The Stormers are a very capable side and have played some good footy in the last few weeks. They are going to be a difficult assignment and, in the circumstances, easily the toughest challenge we’ve had yet this year.”

Leon MacDonald’s return at fullback, where he will play his 97th Super Rugby match, has necessitated a positional change for Scott Hamilton, who returns to the wing after having appeared in the number 15 jersey in his last five matches.

Aaron Mauger and Daniel Carter resume their Crusaders careers at inside centre and fly-half respectively, with the inclusion of Andrew Ellis at scrum-half, the other change to the backline that started last week’s win over the Bulls.

In the pack, lock Chris Jack and loose forwards Richard McCaw and Reuben Thorne all return.

Thorne will play his 114th match for the Crusaders, extending his franchise appearance record, although his run of 71 consecutive games between 2001 and 2006 was broken by involvement in the conditioning programme.

The front row remains the same as that which excelled against the Bulls, with hooker Corey Flynn retaining the captaincy, allowing McCaw to concentrate on duties as an openside flank in his Super 14 season debut.

Lock Michael Paterson and blindside flank Kieran Read, who have both made big impressions in their debut Super 14s, have been included on the bench alongside experienced openside flank Johnny Leo’o, the well performed Ben Franks and back up hooker Ti’i Paulo.

The Stormers, who arrive at Jade Stadium sitting in 11th position on the Super 14 ladder – but just four points outside of the semi-final rankings, were the only side to beat the Crusaders in the inaugural Super 14 in 2006.

The South African side won last year’s match 28-17 in Cape Town after leading 13-3 at half-time. Nine of the Crusaders who started in that match are also in the starting XV for this weekend.

Crusaders: 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Aaron Mauger, 11 Scott Hamilton, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andrew Ellis, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Richard McCaw, 6 Reuben Thorne, 5 Chris Jack, 4 Ross Filipo, 3 Campbell Johnstone, 2 Corey Flynn (c), 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ti’i Paulo, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Michael Paterson, 19 Kieran Read, 20 Kevin Senio, 21 Stephen Brett, 22 Johnny Leo’o

Date: Saturday, 24 March
Venue: Jade Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Referee: Brett Bowden (Australia)
Touch judges: George Ayoub (Australia) Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Television match official: Josh Noonan (New Zealand)
Assessor: Alan Riley (New Zealand), Lusanda Menze (South Africa)

 

365 Digital

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