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Preview: Crusaders v Hurricanes

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 24, Crusaders 16, Hurricanes 6, Drawn 2, Abandoned 1

LAST TIME: Crusaders 27 beat Hurricanes 17, July 12, 2013, AMI Stadium

WALKING WOUNDED: Tim Perry has a hamstring strain which sees Wyatt Crockett start and Daniel Lienert-Brown, the New Zealand Under-20s player, has been called into the reserves from the development team. Halfback Willi Heinz and flanker Richie McCaw are still out of action. Tim Bateman will make a return to the side after being out with a knee injury. No.8 Blade Thomson also makes it back into the side after missing last week with an injury. Cory Jane is still unavailable due to an ankle injury.

FORM: It has hardly been a stellar year for either side but the Crusaders have the edge with two wins from four games while the Hurricanes have one from five. The home team showed the tenacity of old in coming from behind to beat the Stormers but were then given a work out by the Rebels before claiming a 25-19 win. The Hurricanes got on the board with a runaway win over the Cheetahs two weeks ago but then lost ground again against the Highlanders.

WE THINK: Even when struggling to win, as they assuredly have too often this season, the Crusaders have still managed to avoid blow-outs and have kept some shape. It is not the sort of shape that has been synonomous with the sides of the past, but it is enough to keep them competitive. The Hurricanes, by comparison, have demonstrated none of that type of cohesion and have not played with a consistency to suggest they deserve better than what they have achieved. They need to find that soon, but against the Crusaders it is not likely to be enough. Having the benefit of a week off, the Crusaders are certain to want to make a statement in this contest. They should do that with some comfort.

TEAMS:

Crusaders: 1.Wyatt Crockett, 2.Ben Funnell, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Luke Romano, 5.Samuel Whitelock, 6.Luke Whitelock, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Kieran Read (captain), 9.Andy Ellis, 10.Colin Slade, 11.Johnny McNicholl, 12.Tom Taylor, 13.Ryan Crotty, 14. Nafi Tuitavake, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Codie Taylor, 17.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18.Nepo Laulala, 19.Dominic Bird, 20.Jordan Taufua, 21.Mitchell Drummond, 22.Kieron Fonotia, 23.Namani Nadolo.

Hurricanes: 1.Ben Franks, 2.Dane Coles, 3.Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 4.Jeremy Thrush, 5.James Broadhurst, 6.Faifili Levave, 7.Jack Lam, 8.Blade Thomson, 9.TJ Perenara, 10.Beauden Barrett, 11.Julian Savea, 12.Tim Bateman, 13.Conrad Smith (captain), 14.Alapati Leiua, 15.Andre Taylor.

Reserves: 16.Ash Dixon, 17.Chris Eves, 18.John Schwalger, 19.Mark Reddish, 20.Ardie Savea, 21.Billy Guyton, 22.Matt Proctor, 23.Marty Banks.

REFEREE: Nick Briant