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TEAM NAMING: Crusaders out for three-peat

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

If any side was going to have a predictable squad it would be the Investec Super Rugby champions from 2017-18.

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They have retained the core of their squad for 2019. Already it looks a powerful unit as the champions shape for another campaign. The depth is impressive, especially in the core positions up front and in the rest of the side that will only have been extended by the extra exposure players have with the All Blacks in Japan.

If competition for places is a harbinger for top performances then the Crusaders will be well served across the park with strength in all departments. That will also be handy in a World Cup year when there will be a desire to have less stress on All Black contenders.

Given they played much of their 2018 campaign without props Joe Moody and Owen Franks, and will be without retired veteran Wyatt Crockett, there is an enviable core with back-up from Tim Perry, Oli Jager, Michael Alaalatoa and Harry Allan.

Loose forward Whetu Douglas's return was well known after he made himself available for Canterbury in the Mitre 10 Cup after returning from a season overseas ready to resume where he left off in the five appearances he made for the side as a short-term contract player. But he lends strength at No.8.

One new face in the midfield is Ngane Punivai, a former New Zealand Secondary Schools' and New Zealand Under-20 player, who was part of Canterbury's Mitre 10 Cup squad this year. There is also hint of future excitement about the selection of Leicester Fainga'anuku, another product of Nelson College, who has also played for New Zealand Schools and the New Zealand Under-20 side.



In: Whetu Douglas, Ngane Punivai. Leicester Fainga'anuku

Out: Wyatt Crockett, Donald Brighouse*, Chris King*, Peter Samu, Jack Stratton, Mike Delany, Seta Tamanivalu, Jone Macilai-Tori, Sam Anderson-Heather*, Sebastian Siataga*, Tima Fainga'anuku.

All Blacks: Joe Moody, Owen Franks, Tim Perry, Codie Taylor, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Luke Romano, Matt Todd, Kieran Read, Mitchell Drummond, Richie Mo'unga, Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, David Havili, Israel Dagg.

Placing last year: First (Played 19, won 17, lost two)

Squad:

Joe Moody, Michael Alaalatoa, Harrison Allan, Oliver Jager, Owen Franks, Tim Perry, Codie Taylor, Ben Funnell, Andrew Makalio, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Quinten Strange, Mitchell Dunshea, Luke Romano, Billy Harmon, Tom Sanders, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Ethan Blackadder, Whetu Douglas, Kieran Read, Mitchell Drummond, Bryn Hall, Ere Enari, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Hunt, Brett Cameron, Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Tim Bateman, Braydon Ennor, George Bridge, Manasa Mataele, Ngane Punavai, David Havili, Israel Dagg, Will Jordan, Leicester Faingaanuku.

* Short-term contract players