Preview: Reds v Crusaders

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Saturday, May 10, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Sunday, May 11, 2014, 18:05pm (NZT)

Head to head: Played 20, Reds 6, Crusaders 14

Last time: Reds 9-38 Crusaders (July 20, 2013)

Squad update: While Kieran Read will sit out another week with concussion and Matt Todd has been ruled out with a calf injury, the Crusaders will still wield ten past or present All Blacks in the starting team. Test skipper Richie McCaw will play at openside while Ryan Crotty retains the captain’s armband.

The Reds have made five changes, most of them dictated by injury, but despite a growing casualty ward, there is still plenty of quality in the team, even if there continues to be concern over how their senior players like James Horwill and Quade Cooper are struggling to hit top gear.

Form: Four straight wins – six from their last seven – represents a dramatic turnaround for a team that was 0-2 after two opening matches against local opposition. An unbeaten South African tour, victory in Hamilton and then a record victory against the Brumbies has the Crusaders on track for an eighth title.

The Reds meanwhile are likely to miss the top six for the first time in four years, with just one win from their last seven matches. Indeed, with the Australian Conference looking as strong as it has in years, the Queenslanders have become the casualty with three losses from four matches against local rivals.

Key Players: Richie McCaw was a colossus last week, making a game high 21 tackles, and his efforts were equalled throughout a pack that is beginning to play their preferred uncompromising way. However it is the efforts of Colin Slade that is making the biggest impact, the young first five is playing with more freedom and confidence than he has in years.

This is in dramatic contrast to the Reds main playmakers, Will Genia and Cooper are not controlling contests like they do in their pomp. However if the likes of Beau Robinson can scrap against their vaunted opposites then things will get interesting.

Reds: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Curtis Browning, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 Ben Daley.

Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Dave McDuling, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Ben Lucas, 23 Rod Davies.

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ryan Crotty (c), 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.

Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 George Whitelock, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.

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