Mauger boost for Crusaders




Two giants of Super rugby will clash decisively in Canberra on Saturday when the Crusaders travel to face the Brumbies.

The match is decisive in the outcome of this year’s competition – a win for the Crusaders hurtles them toward a guaranteed home semi-final and most probably a final too. And it is questionable whether they would lose those matches at home.

A loss might just splinter a rampant march home to victory for the champions.

To avoid such an eventuality Crusaders coach Robbie Deans named a fresh side of five changes to travel to Canberra.

The side has been boosted by the returns of centre Aaron Mauger as well as promising lock Michael Paterson from injury.

Paterson’s return allows Reuben Thorne to shift back to flank.

Kevin Senio returns at scrum-half, in the place of Andrew Ellis who goes to the bench, while Campbell Johnstone is back at tighthead prop, with Ben Franks returning to the loosehead side while Wyatt Crockett is rested.

Crockett has a few minor niggles and Crusaders assistant coach Mark Hammett says this is an opportune moment to give him a break. Ben May has taken his place among the replacements.

Scott Hamilton and Rico Gear have also swapped places from last week, with Hamilton starting on the right wing while Gear is on the bench.

While the Crusaders have won eight of their 13 matches against the Brumbies, the scoreboard in games that have been played in Canberra stands at 3-3, with the home side having won the two most recent encounters in 2004 and 2005.

The teams’ combined history in Canberra includes the 2000 and 2004 competition finals. They also featured in the 2002 final at Jade.

“The record says that playing the Brumbies in Canberra is one of the most difficult assignments in Super rugby, and that is certainly our experience,” Crusaders coach Robbie Deans says.

“They’ve got the better of us on the last couple of occasions we’ve been there. We’re under no illusions as to how difficult the task will be on Saturday night.”

Deans noted the planned celebrations marking the contributions that veteran playmakers Stephen Larkham and George Gregan have made to the Brumbies could potentially have an impact on the match.

“There will be a lot of emotion there, and that will surely spill over as a positive for the Brumbies, in terms of the attitude and desire that their players bring to the contest,” Deans says.

“It’s going to be up to us to match that.”

The Crusaders will fly to Canberra on Thursday afternoon.

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

Date: Saturday 28 April 2007
Venue: Canberra Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19.40 (9.40 GMT)


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