Super Rugby preview: Crusaders take on Brumbies in Christchurch
Last Updated: 01/05/14 4:32pm
The Crusaders will play their first home game in over a month when they face the Brumbies this Saturday in Christchurch.
Both sides go into the clash on the back of three wins, with the second-placed Brumbies two victories ahead of the eighth-placed Crusaders.
Last week the Crusaders had a bye, giving champion flanker Richie McCaw an extra seven days to recover from his broken thumb ahead of the clash, in which he will play at number six.
He is one of five changes made by head Coach Todd Blackadder to the starting XV that beat the Chiefs two weeks ago.
Matt Todd retains the number seven jersey and Luke Whitelock comes in at number eight with Kieran Read ruled out due to the concussion suffered against the Chiefs.
Also returning from injury are Kieron Fonotia and Luke Romano. Fonotia will play at centre, seeing Tom Taylor take a place in the reserves, and Romano will provide lock cover off the bench.
The hookers and half-backs rotate again this week, so Ben Funnell will be the starting hooker and Andy Ellis the starting half-back. Corey Flynn and Willi Heinz will be ready to provide impact off the bench.
Centre Ryan Crotty will captain the side in Read's absence and McCaw will take up the vice-captaincy reins.
The Brumbies have made just one change to the side which defeated the Chiefs last weekend, with Ruaidhri Murphy coming onto the bench for JP Smith.
After being ruled out during the warm up last week, Siliva Siliva is again outside the matchday 23, with Josh Mann-Rea to take the back-up hooking spot and jersey number 16.
With the Brumbies squad now stabilizing after an early spread of injuries, director of rugby Laurie Fisher and head coach Stephen Larkham have been able to name an unchanged starting side for the fifth time this year.
The last time the Brumbies defeated the Crusaders in Christchurch was back in 2000, the same year the Christchurch franchise knocked over the Canberra-based side in the final.
"Playing the Crusaders away is a big challenge for everyone, we haven't had a very good record over there and no-one in this side has ever beaten the Crusaders in New Zealand," said Larkham.
"They've had three-straight wins now, including two in Africa which is never easy. After a shaky start to the season they've found some form and will be further boosted by the return of Richie McCaw.
"We've been building over the last three years, not just against the Crusaders, but at rising to challenges and overcoming those challenges. Our attack is much better today than what is has been and we feel internally like we are a better side than we have been over the last couple of years."
Crusaders: 15 Dagg, 14 McNicholl, 13 Fonotia, 12 Crotty, 11 Nadolo, 10 Slade, 9 Ellis; 1 Crockett, 2 Funnell, 3 Franks, 4 Bird, 5 Whitelock, 6 McCaw, 7 Todd, 8 Whitelock.
Replacements: 16 Flynn, 17 Perry, 18 Laulala, 19 Romano, 20 Taufua, 21 Heinz, 22 Taylor, 23 Tuitavake.
Brumbies: 15 Mogg, 14 Tomane, 13 Kuridrani, 12 Lealiifano, 11 Coleman, 10 Toomua, 9 White; 1 Sio, 2 Moore, 3 Alexander, 4 Fardy, 5 Carter, 6 Smiler, 7 Butler, 8 Mowen (c).
Replacements: 16 Mann-Rea, 17 R Smith, 18 Murphy, 19 Whetton, 20 McVerry, 21 Dowsett, 22 A Smith, 23 McCabe.