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PREVIEW: Chiefs v Crusaders

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Thursday, May 18, 2017    allblacks.com    Getty Images

ROUND 13: Chiefs v Crusaders, Friday 19 May 7.35pm (NZT), Suva, Fiji

FORM
The Crusaders have been unbeaten all season and showed another layer of grit and tenacity in their 20-12 win over the Hurricanes last week. The Chiefs have only dropped one game all season (against the Stormers away from home) and are coming off a well-deserved bye. Recent history favours the Chiefs with the Crusaders not tasting victory over their New Zealand counterparts since 2014.

QUICK TAP: POINTS TABLE PRESSURE ADDS TO CHALLENGE IN FIJI

KEY CLASH
The front row battle is set to be decisive. Against the Hurricanes last week, the Crusaders set the platform for victory with a dominant performance by Owen Franks, Codie Taylor and Joe Moody upfront. The Chiefs answer back with an accomplished front row of Nepo Laulala, Nathan Harris and Kane Hames. The Hurricanes crumbled under the pressure applied by the Crusaders ‘All Black’ front row at key moments. The Chiefs would have studied that match closely and will need to muscle up to avoid any blushes.

RETURNING STARS
Both teams have been bolstered by the return of key personnel for this clash. For the Crusaders, Captain Sam Whitelock returns from a one-week suspension to take his place in the number five jersey. The Chiefs have added some firepower to their backline with the return of Aaron Cruden at first five-eighth and Tim Nanai-Williams on the right wing.

LAST TIME

This will be the second time the Chiefs and Crusaders have met in Fiji after last year’s inaugural clash. Just like this year, the two sides sat atop the New Zealand conference when they met in Fiji. In wet conditions, the Chiefs came out on top 23-13 in a gripping contest.
FAST FACT
The Chiefs have won 16 of their last 17 matches at home on a Friday night, including each of their last seven.

TEAMS
Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Tim Nanai-Williams, Sam McNicol, Anton Lienert-Brown, James Lowe, Aaron Cruden (co-c), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Michael Leitch, Sam Cane (co-c), Mitchell Brown, Brodie Retallick, Dominic Bird, Nepo Laulala, Nathan Harris, Kane Hames. Reserves: Hika Elliot, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Atu Moli, Taleni Seu, Liam Messam, Jonathan Taumateine, Stephen Donald, Shaun Stevenson

Crusaders: David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richard Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd, Pete Samu, Sam Whitelock (captain), Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Quinten Strange, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Manasa Mataele.