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PREVIEW: Crusaders v Chiefs

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Friday, February 26, 2016    allblacks.com    Getty Images

ROUND ONE: Crusaders v Chiefs, 7.35pm, Saturday 27 February, AMI Stadium

TALE OF THE TAPE

Recent history goes to the Chiefs with seven wins out of their last 10 matches against the Crusaders. Overall the Crusaders have the edge with 16 wins compared to the Chiefs 11. The Crusaders finished Super Rugby 2015 in style with three big wins while the Chiefs only won two out of their last seven matches.

CRUDEN COMEBACK
After suffering a season ending injury in 2015, Aaron Cruden is back. The talented playmaker is a key cog in the Chiefs line up and will provide a huge boost the Chiefs title aspirations. With Dan Carter removed from the New Zealand rugby scene, Cruden has the chance to claim the crown of the New Zealand’s top first-five. 



CHIEFS NEWBIES
It is a new-look Chiefs side with four players debuting in the starting line-up and another one the bench. Upfront, highly regarded Japan prop Hiroshi Yamashita will add steel to the front row while Tom Sanders and Taleni Seu debut in the loose forwards. Out wide, speedster Shaun Stevenson will be hoping to repeat his strong form for Waikato in the Mitre 10 Cup. Finally, 21-year-old Taranaki outside back Latu Vaeno will add cover on the bench.

FIJIAN FLAIR
Nemani Nadolo was a revelation for the Crusaders last year and is now joined by another Fijian international in first-five Ben Volavola. The talented pivot starred for Fiji during the 2015 Rugby World Cup with a vast array of ball-playing skills and an educated boot. Although Volavola is starting from the bench, expect this Fijian connection to shine should they get the opportunity to combine on the field.



ALL BLACK FRONT ROW

The Chiefs will have a tough assignment upfront with the Crusaders boasting three Rugby World Cup winners in their front row. In Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Owen Franks, the Crusaders have one of the most powerful front row combinations in Super Rugby. It doesn’t get easier on the bench with All Black Wyatt Crockett ready to add impact.



TICKETS 
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TEAMS:

Chiefs: 15: Damien McKenzie 14: Shaun Stevenson 13: Seta Tamanivalu 12: Charlie Ngatai 11: James Lowe 10: Aaron Cruden 9: Tawera Kerr-Barlow 8: Tom Sanders 7: Sam Cane 6: Taleni Seu 5: Brodie Retallick 4: Michael Allardice 3: Hiroshi Yamashita 2: Rhys Marshall 1: Pauliasi Manu

Reserves: Nathan Harris, Mitchell Graham, Siate Tokolahi, Maama Vaipulu, Johan Bardoul, Brad Weber, Anton Lienert-Brown, Latu Vaeno

Crusaders:
15: David Havili 14: Jone Mailai 13: Sean Wainui 12: Kieron Fonotia 11: Nemani Nadolo 10: Richie Mo’unga 9: Andy Ellis 8: Kieran Read 7: Tim Boys 6: Jordan Taufua 5: Samuel Whitelock (C) 4: Scott Barrett 3: Owen Franks 2: Codie Taylor 1: Joe Moody

Reserve: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Mike Alaalatoa, Jimmy Tupu, Reed Prinsep, Leon Fukofuka, Ben Volavola, Johnny McNicholl