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PREVIEW: Force v Crusaders

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Thursday, April 7, 2016    allblacks.com    Getty Images

ROUND SEVEN: Force v Crusaders, Friday 8 April, 11pm (NZT), Perth

TALE OF THE TAPE
While the Crusaders are running into a hot patch of form, they will be wary of playing a Force side in their Perth fortress. In the five games played between the two sides in Perth, the Crusaders have only walked away with two wins. The Force have only recorded one win this season but will be buoyed be playing at home for the first time in four weeks.

QUICK TAP: FORCE RELISHING BEING AT HOME

TACKLE MACHINE
There is no bigger workhorse in Investec Super Rugby than Force captain Matt Hodgson. The veteran openside flanker tops the tackle stats with a remarkable 86 tackles – 15 more than the Highlanders Shane Christie and the Blues Blake Gibson in second place. As an inspirational leader, expect the Force to follow Hodgson’s example and defend stoutly throughout this encounter.

NZL-SAF CONNECTION
In Alby Mathewson and Peter Grant, the Force boast a former All Black and former Springbok in their halfback-first-five combination. As a dynamic attacker and crisp distributor, Mathewson is displaying the form that earned him a call-up to the All Blacks in 2010 while Grant has settled into his role as the backline general. The Crusaders will have to monitor this experienced duo closely if they are to improve their record in Perth.

CRUCIAL CROTTY
After missing out on the opening rounds of Investec Super Rugby through injury, Ryan Crotty has shown his class on return to the side over the past two weeks. Against the Sharks, Crotty’s experience was to the fore as the Crusaders ground out a tight win. Last week against the Lions, Crotty showed his finishing flair by crossing for three tries in the high scoring victory. This week he pairs with Sean Wainui against the powerful Force midfield of Solomoni Rasolea and Ben Tapuai.



FIJIAN FLYERS
In one of the most exciting head-to-head battles of the round, Nemani Nadolo squares off against the electric Semisi Masirewa on the left wing. The two explosive speedsters will be hoping to get plenty of clean ball to showcase their attacking flair. Nadolo already tops many of the Crusaders attacking statistics and has more offloads than any other player in Super Rugby. Masirewa has quickly become a fan favourite in his first year at the Force and will be hoping to excite his home fans this weekend.

TEAMS
Crusaders: 1: Wyatt Crockett 2: Codie Taylor 3: Owen Franks 4: Luke Romano 5: Sam Whitelock 6: Jordan Taufua 7: Matt Todd 8: Kieran Read (C) 9: Mitchell Drummond 10: Richie Mo’unga 11: Nemani Nadolo 12: Ryan Crotty 13: Sean Wainui 14: Johnny McNicholl 15: Ben Volavola
Reserves: 16: Ged Robinson 17: Joe Moody 18: Mike Alaalatoa 19: Scott Barrett 20: Jimmy Tupou 21: Andy Ellis 22: Kieron Fonotia 23: Jone Macalai

Force:
1. Pekahou Cowan 2. Heath Tessmann 3. Tetera Faulkner 4. Sitiveni (Steve) Mafi 5. Adam Coleman 6. Angus Cottrell 7. Matt Hodgson (C) 8. Ben McCalman 9. Alby Mathewson 10. Peter Grant 11. Semisi Masirewa 12. Solomoni (Junior) Rasolea 13. Ben Tapuai 14. Luke Morahan 15. Dane Haylett-Petty
Reserves: 16. Nathan Charles 17. Francois van Wyk 18. Jermaine Ainsley 19. Rory Walton 20. Richard Hardwick 21. Ryan Louwrens 22. Ian Prior 23. Albert Nikoro