Cooper excited about Crusaders test




Hurricanes’ coach Colin Cooper was a former assistant to Robbie Deans with the Crusaders and he is relishing every opportunity he gets against his former team and Friday’s Super 14 match will be no different.

The Hurricanes have hit some from winning four matches in a row but the extent of their form will be shown if they can continue with the their form after coming off a bye.

“They’re the best and we want to see where we’re at, against the best,” he told the NZPA.

“It’s an exciting challenge.

“We’ve got good confidence. We’ve got line-breakers in our team that are looking forward to coming up against the best defensive team in the competition.”

The Crusaders have won all six of their matches so far and they have picked up a bonus point in all but one of their matches.

For the Hurricanes to stand a chance against the Six time Super rugby champions they will need to reproduce the set piece output from Canberra.

“Once we get control there, (No.10) Jimmy Gopperth’s able to play better and our loosies are able to play better. So it’s a major part of our game.”

The collisions around the fringes should be shuddering, with All Blacks loosies Rodney So’oialo, Chris Masoe and Jerry Collins all starting to find their feet for the Hurricanes.

They will have to hold off the charges of the Richie McCaw-led Crusaders trio in which Mose Tuiali’i and Kieran Read have been dynamic all season.

Nonu could also make a difference if given space and a hesitant defensive line.Cooper has put Nonu on the left wing with Shannon Paku switching to the right.

“He’s playing too well, he’s line-breaking really well,” Cooper said.

“The unpredictability of Ma’a really helps in breaking the line.”

Cooper says on the Stuff website that no extra guidance was needed this week for Nonu, whose reputation for indiscipline wasn’t helped by his dangerous tackle against the Highlanders when he last played three weeks ago.

“We talk about that all the time,” Cooper murmured

For the first time this season, the coach could pick from an injury-free squad.

It helped fan a positive outlook which the Hurricanes had developed since their rare triumph in Canberra.

The bye week had fallen at a good time, Cooper believed, about mid-season if warmup games were taken into account.

“With the bye, it can be a good or bad thing depending on where you’re at,” he said.

“We finished really well with the Brumbies so we’ve come back pretty excited.”

Other key matchups will come at lock, where possible All Blacks team-mates this year Ali Williams of the Crusaders and Jason Eaton lock horns, while national tighthead prop candidates Neemia Tialata of the Hurricanes and Greg Somerville are out to anchor the steadier scrum.

Hurricanes No.9 Piri Weepu will be desperate to outplay the man who usurped him from last year’s World Cup squad, Andy Ellis.


Hurricanes: Cory Jane, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Tamati Ellison, Shannon Paku, Jimmy Gopperth, Piri Weepu, Rodney So’oialo (captain), Chris Masoe, Jerry Collins, Jason Eaton, Craig Clarke, Neemia Tialata Andrew Hore, John Schwalger. Reserves: Hikawera Elliot, Tim Fairbrother, Jeremy Thrush, Scott Waldrom, Alby Mathewson, Tane Tu’ipulotu, Hosea Gear.

Crusaders: Leon MacDonald, Scott Hamilton, Casey Laulala, Tim Bateman, Kade Poki, Daniel Carter, Andrew Ellis, Mose Tuiali’i, Richard McCaw (captain), Kieran Read, Ali Williams, Brad Thorn, Greg Somerville, Corey Flynn, Ben Franks. Reserves: Ti’i Paulo, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Paterson, Nasi Manu, Kahn Fotuali’i, Caleb Ralph, Sean Maitland.


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