Robertson welcomes selection pressure

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Thursday, April 19, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Central to the return are experienced All Blacks prop Owen Franks and fullback/wing Israel Dagg.

Robertson said it was good having the pair back and they brought energy and experience to the side.

However, he also confirmed that All Blacks captain and No.8 Kieran Read would not be back until after the June international window. His back surgery had always been a six to eight-month proposition and he was still on track to achieve that.

Backs were hard to guess and while it might have been an earlier return it hadn't worked that way.

He was starting his return and was running better but it was just a case of time, before he returned, he said.

Robertson said first five-eighths Mike Delany had been managing himself well and it was a chance for the management to see what he had to offer from the starting role in the side.

"We trust all three 10s and Richie's [Mo'unga] back the week after so it's great, great depth for us and it's been a while since we've had a few selection issues and they're coming now which is great as a coach. That's what you want," he said.

The game was also a chance to rest captain and lock Sam Whitelock who had played some big minutes for the side, especially with the advantage of having the bye as well in order to freshen up and the same applied to hooker Codie Taylor.

Fullback David Havili was also being rested while Will Jordan was recovered and would make his return to playing through the New Zealand Under-20 team's campaign.

It was also a chance to give starts to players who deserved the opportunity, the balance of the squad was strong.

Making his debut will be flanker Ethan Blackadder and Robertson said 'he is an absolute chip off the block' – a reference to his father and Crusaders legend Todd Blackadder.

"He is the most diligent man you will come across. His work ethic is incredible. Switching off is probably his biggest work-on because he just loves it and he is a great team man, so here is his opportunity," he said.

The Sunwolves, while not favoured, were a team who could turn their season around with a win over the Crusaders and as a team who liked to move the ball around they would be looking to play that way.

Robertson was confident that the players entrusted with the starting roles were aware of what was required to maintain the Crusaders' standards and that was heightened by the increasing competition for places in the side.