PREVIEW: Crusaders v Force

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

For some reason, generally associated with returning from South Africa, the Crusaders have always found the Force a bit of a handful. But the red and blacks have won six of the 10 games between the sides with two drawn. The Force have one win from their three games this year. They had the bye last weekend, a good effort against the improved Reds side 26-19. They pushed the Waratahs close to lose 13-19 while the Brumbies were not as convincing as they might have liked in claiming a 25-17 win. The Crusaders continue to get home on their powers of recovery but the concern must be that if they let many other sides get sizeable leads one of them is going to know how to shut them out. That will be what the Force try to expose on Friday.

The Force have surprised with their squad for their New Zealand tour, they play the Blues in their second week. Left behind to rest is Wallaby wing Dane Haylett-Petty while forward Onehunga Havili Kaufusi has also been left out. Utility back Marcel Brache will link up with Alex Newsome in the squad while lock Richie Arnold, the twin brother of Wallaby lock Rory, will have the chance to make his debut. Specifically for the Crusaders game Test hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau will have his first start for the side while Isireli Naisarani will make his starting debut on the blindside flank. Jono Lance will captain the side from first five-eighths while Matt Hodgson is expected to make his return from a hamstring injury from the bench.

The Crusaders will be pleased to have flanker Matt Todd back in their side, he has been an important link between backs and forwards for several years now and his experience will be an asset as the talented young backline looks to get among the action. Playing Scott Barrett on the side of the scrum may be a look at a prospective All Blacks option, at least in the event of injury, but perhaps with a longer view in mind. It certainly beefs up the side's lineout options.


Crusaders: 1.Wyatt Crocket, 2.Codie Taylor, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Luke Romano, 5.Sam Whitelock (captain), 6.Scott Barrett, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Jordan Taufua, 9.Mitchell Drummond, 10.Mitchell Hunt, 11.George Bridge, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Tim Bateman, 14.Digby Ioane, 15.David Havili.

Substitutes: 16.Ben Funnell, 17.Tim Perry, 18.Michael Alaalatoa, 19.Mitchell Dunshea, 20.Pete Samu, 21.Bryn Hall, 22.Marty McKenzie, 23.Manasa Mataele.

Force: 1.Ben Daley, 2.Tatafu Polota-Nau, 3.Jermaine Ainsley, 4.Ross Haylett-Petty, 5.Matt Philip, 6.Isi Naisarani, 7.Kane Koteka, 8.Richard Hardwick, 9.Ryan Louwrens, 10.Jono Chance (captain), 11.Chance Peni, 12.Marcel Brache, 13.Curtis Rona, 14.Alex Newsome, 15.Luke Morahan.

Substitutes: 16.Heath Tessmann, 17.Pek Cowan, 18.Tetera Faulkner, 19.Richie Arnold, 20.Matt Hodgson, 21.Michael Ruru, 22.Ian Prior, 23.Robbie Coleman.