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PREVIEW: Crusaders v Brumbies

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Thursday, February 23, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

ROUND 1: Crusaders v Brumbies, 7.35pm (NZT), Saturday 25 February, AMI Stadium, Christchurch

TALE OF THE TAPE
The Crusaders have run into a degree of success against the Canberra-based Brumbies in recent years. They always had a good rumble during the early years of the competition but the Crusaders have eased away recently and in the last six years have achieved comfortable wins whether at home or away. It is difficult to see that changing in 2017.
INSTITUTIONAL KNOWLEDGE
Losing some of your fundamental DNA is never good for any business and that's what the Brumbies have to overcome this year. David Pocock is having a year off while Stephen Moore is with the Reds, that is a powerful share of experience and a significant hurdle to overcome. The Crusaders have lost players as well, but not as significant as last year. They have been through the transition and have emerged stronger.

KIWI HOMECOMING
Among the Brumbies turning out are two players with extensive New Zealand experience. Prop Nic Mayhew has plied his trade with North Harbour in the Mitre 10 Cup in recent seasons while first five-eighths Wharenui Hawera has played most recently for Southland but also has Waikato connections. Both will have key roles to play for a side needing their respective strengths, power up front from Mayhew and direction for the backline from Hawera.

CORE TALENT
Anyone who has ever needed to beat the Crusaders generally has to start up front, and they don't come much more daunting than the Crusaders pack. Joe Moody, Ben Funnell and Owen Franks in the front row, skipper and world-ranked lock Sam Whitelock partnered by one of the up and comers of the New Zealand game Scott Barrett represent a pretty daunting combination.



MERRY DANCE
It's true the Brumbies have some key talent in their backline, most obviously in wing Henry Speight and centre Tevita Kuridrani. But getting them the sort of ball that the Crusaders will enjoy will be crucial. From second five-eighths Ryan Crotty, to centre Jack Goodhue and wings Seta Tamanivalu and George Bridge, there is strikepower galore and that is not to forget Israel Dagg chiming in from fullback in his 100th Super Rugby game. There could be some merry capers cut in this contest and it shapes as a big night for the Brumbies defence.

TEAMS
Crusaders: 1.Joe Moody, 2.Ben Funnell, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Scott Barrett, 5.Sam Whitelock (captain), 6.Jordan Taufua, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Whetu Douglas, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.George Bridge, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Jack Goodhue, 14.Seta Tamanivalu, 15.Israel Dagg.

Substitutes: 16.Codie Taylor, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Michael Alaalatoa, 19.Luke Romano, 20.Pete Samu, 21.Ereatari Enari, 22.Mitchell Hunt, 23.David Havili.

Brumbies: 1.Scott Sio, 2.Josh Mann-Rea, 3.Allan Alaalatoa, 4.Rory Arnold, 5.Sam Carter, 6.Scott Fardy, 7.Chris Alcock, 8.Jordan Smiler, 9.Joe Powell, 10.Wharenui Hawera,11. James Dargaville, 12.Kyle Godwin, 13.Tevita Kuridrani, 14.Henry Speight, 15.Aidan Toua. Reserves: 16.Robbie Abel, 17.Ben Alexander, 18.Les Leuluaialii-Makin, 19.Tom Staniforth, 20.Lolo Fakaosilea, 21.De Wet Roos, 22.Andrew Smith, 23.Isaac Thompson.