Preview: Crusaders v Brumbies

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Friday, May 2, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Saturday, May 3, 2014, 16:35pm (NZT)

Head to Head: Played 20, Crusaders 12, Brumbies 8

Last time: Crusaders 30-23 Brumbies (May 5, 2013)

Walking wounded: The seven-time champions have almost cleared out their casualty ward, welcoming back World Cup winning captain Richie McCaw, Luke Romano and Kieron Fonotia – Kieran Read and Joe Moody are the only players missing in action.

The Brumbies are another team relishing minimal absences, indeed they have named the same starting XV for a remarkable fifth time so far this season.

Form: To say this is a heavyweight clash is no understatement, both teams are looking to return to former glories. They are among the form franchises, even if the Crusaders five wins in six matches have come over eight weeks (due to two byes). The home team’s last five victories against Australian teams is a full house, beating all their sides.

However the Brumbies have similar pedigree, they have defeated the Hurricanes, Blues and Chiefs this year and are the form outfit in Super Rugby. They haven’t won in Christchurch though since 2000.

Key players: There is plenty of attention regarding the return of McCaw, but he returns to a pack in fine form, while out wide the likes of Colin Slade and Nemani Nadolo have got about their business in impressive fashion.

The Brumbies have among the best balanced teams in Super Rugby, with no apparent weaknesses. Their pillars in Ben Mowen, Matt Toomua and Jesse Mogg will be among the first names announced in this year’s Wallabies squad.

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Richie McCaw, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.

Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Jordan Smiler, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.

Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Ruaidhri Murphy, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Tom McVerry, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Pat McCabe.