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PREVIEW: Hurricanes v Crusaders

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Thursday, March 28, 2019    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match details: Hurricanes v Crusaders, 7.35pm Friday 29 March, Westpac Stadium, Wellington. TICKETS. 

Played: 36
Won: Crusaders 21, Hurricanes 12, Drawn 3
Last time: Crusaders 38, Hurricanes 22 (23 February 2019)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe

FORM
The Crusaders started their season with four straight victories to extend their Super Rugby winning streak to 19 before being toppled by the Waratahs in Sydney last week. The Hurricanes have won four matches, drawn one and fall short 38-22 to the Crusaders in their only loss of the season. The Crusaders have been at their clinical best in 2019 with a competition leading average of 4.2 tries per game. The Hurricanes have been just as dangerous with an average of 29.5 defenders beaten per match – the most of any team. 

QUICK TAP: HURRICANES PREPARE FOR BATTLE UP FRONT

READ RETURNS
After four months away from the game, Kieran Read has been named to start for the Crusaders in the eight jersey. The All Blacks skipper and Crusaders centurion said he ‘can’t wait’ to get back out on the park for the Crusaders. "I feel like I'm in as good nick as I've been in my career. It was the aim this year, it's what the off-season was about. I'm very thankful to have had the time. Right now, it's time to get out there and do it on the field," said Read.

CANES ALL BLACKS

If there is one position the Hurricanes can cover an injured All Black it is at hooker. With Dane Coles missing from the line-up due to a calf strain, fringe All Blacks Ricky Riccitelli and Asafo Aumua get the nod to share the hooking duties. Despite the absence of Coles, the Hurricanes are blessed with All Blacks throughout their line up with Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett all in the starting line-up.
FAST FACT (Opta)
The Crusaders are unbeaten in their last 10 New Zealand derbies with their last defeat to a New Zealand side coming against the Highlanders in round five of 2018.

THE SCOOP
The Hurricanes will take plenty of confidence from the fact they are playing at home against the defending champions. Westpac Stadium has become a real fortress for the Hurricanes with the Crusaders coming up short on their last five visits to Wellington. In their round two clash, the Crusaders bullied the Hurricanes up front in what was a comfortable 38-22 victory. The Hurricanes will be under no illusions that a vastly improved forward effort will be key to success on Friday night.

TEAMS
Hurricanes:

Chase Tiatia, Jordie Barrett, Matt Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara (c), Reed Prinsep, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Liam Mitchell, James Blackwell, Ben May, Ricky Riccitelli, Fraser Armstrong. Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Chris Eves, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Richard Judd, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Wes Goosen.

Crusaders:
David Havili, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Whetukamokamo Douglas,. Samuel Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, Harry Allan. Reserves: Andrew Makalio, George Bower, Oli Jager, Quinten Strange, Jordan Taufua, Mitchell Drummond, Brett Cameron, Will Jordan.