PREVIEW: Hurricanes v Crusaders

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Thursday, March 8, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details:
Hurricanes v Crusaders, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 7.35pm Saturday, March 10, 2018. TICKETS.

Played: 32
Won: Hurricanes 11, Crusaders 18, Drawn 3
Last time: Hurricanes 31-22 Crusaders, at Westpac Stadium, July 15, 2017

The Hurricanes go into the game with an unchanged starting XV and on the bench Asafo Aumua is set to make his debut for the side. He had been sidelined with a rib injury but put in 40 minutes with the Hurricanes' Under-20 side last week. Marcel Renata has also been named following injury to Alex Fidow against the Jaguares while Richard Judd, who was injury cover at halfback, has also been named on the bench. Flanker Matt Todd has made a quick recovery from his thumb injury and returns to the open side of the Crusaders' scrum with Billy Harmon dropping back to the bench. Pete Samu's injury has prevented him from starting his place falls to Heiden Bedwell-Curtis. As telegraphed Mitchell Hunt starts at first five-eighths in place of the injured Richie Mo'unga with Mike Delany on the bench as back-up.


Having already become a member of the 1000 Super Rugby points club last weekend, Beauden Barrett is set to become the 12th Hurricane to post 100 appearances for the team. He joins Dane Coles, Andrew Hore, Cory Jane, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Conrad Smith, Rodney So'oialo, Jeremy Thrust, Neemia Tialata, Tana Umaga and Victor Vito on the team honours board. He won't be alone as Ben May will register his 100th game, with 64 of them for the Hurricanes.
Broken thumb or not, Crusaders' flanker Matt Todd volunteered for selection having found that the broken bone is not hindering his ability to play. It's not quite in the 'playing with a broken arm' territory of Colin Meads, but it means plenty in such an important game for the Crusaders. With first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga out of action with a broken jaw and flanker Pete Samu suffering a shoulder injury, stocks were beginning to dwindle a little on the experience front which is not something you want going into such an encounter. It's going to be a tough assignment especially up against his old sparring partner Ardie Savea who looked full of running against the Jaguares last week.

Traditionally it is the ability to compete up front that marks the New Zealand derbies but in this instance one of the more appetising contests will be in the midfield where home second five-eighths Ngani Laumape will be paired off against Crusaders mastermind Ryan Crotty. While they say the pair don't actually face off man-on-man in the modern defensive structures, the point remains that both have a basic job to do and it is their ability to achieve that which can mean so much to their sides. Laumape looked back to his lean, mean best in Buenos Aires while Crotty has been as efficient as ever for the Crusaders. It is a tantalising prospect.

The Hurricanes have won their last four games at home against the Crusaders, previously they had won just two of 10 home games against them. (Opta)

1.Chris Eves, 2.Ricky Riccitelli, 3.Ben May, 4.Vaea Fifita, 5.Sam Lousi, 6.Brad Shields (captain), 7.Ardie Savea, 8.Gareth Evans, 9.TJ Perenara, 10.Beauden Barrett, 11.Ben Lam, 12.Ngani Laumape, 13.Matt Proctor, 14.Julian Savea, 15.Jordie Barrett.

Substitutes: 16.Asafo Aumua, 17.Fraser Armstrong, 18.Marcel Renata, 19.Michael Fatialofa, 20.Blade Thomson, 21.Richard Judd, 22.Ihaia West, 23.Vince Aso.

Crusaders: 1.Wyatt Crockett, 2.Codie Taylor, 3.Michael Alaalatoa, 4.Scott Barrett, 5.Sam Whitelock (captain), 6.Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Jordan Taufua, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Mitchell Hunt, 11.George Bridge, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Jack Goodhue, 14.Seta Tamanivalu, 15.David Havili.

Substitutes: 16.Ben Funnell, 17.Chris King, 18.Oliver Jager, 19.Luke Romano, 20.Billy Harmon, 21.Mitchell Drummond, 22.Mike Delany, 23.Manasa Mataele.