Weight of All Blacks heavy for Crusaders

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Sunday, February 10, 2019    Getty Images

He told the Rugby Paper the question being asked in New Zealand was, "Who can beat the Crusaders? 

"It's a challenge all the teams are trying to rise to and, from our perspective at the Highlanders, we were the last team to beat them in the competition last season so we know they're not infallible.

"Their squad is deep but they'll probably have to use it a bit more this season because guys like Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read, Owen Franks, Ryan Crotty and Jack Goodhue will be limited in the number of minutes they play to be ready for the All Blacks.

"That's going to be more of a challenge for them because they've got more All Blacks than anyone else, so we want to get off to a fast start."

Delaney was confident the Highlanders could cope with the loss of first five-eighths Lima Sopoaga.

"Bryn Gatland's come down from Auckland to join us and Marty Banks has returned from Japan, so with Josh Ioane, who was in our 23 all last season, we're very well covered there.

"We knew 'Sops' was leaving so it's been well planned and those guys will fight it out while we're happy with the rest of our squad. We were disappointed to lose in the playoffs at the Waratahs last season and hope to go further."

As for the Blues hopes he said they would take a boost from Auckland's Mitre 10 Cup success while Leon MacDonald had changed things up as coach.

"They've ignited a fire up there and have good players, so it just depends how they gel."

"I'd also expect the Hurricanes to be very strong again after their centre Ngani Laumape re-signed. He gives them huge go-forward and they offer an attacking threat, while the Chiefs also grew as a team at the end of last season," he said.

Meanwhile, at the Reds in Brisbane, attack coach Jim McKay has rejoined the side. He was one of the architects of the 2011 Super Rugby championship win for the side.

"It's a classic rebuild here. A lot of experience has left the joint but in Samu Kerevi we have a fantastic skipper and we've got a really determined young group of players who may lack experience but are going to go for it," he said.