Anyone can contribute to The Roar and have their work featured alongside some of Australia’s most prominent sports journalists.
|T. T. Tahuriorangi||42|
It’s an early-season clash between two of the Super Rugby favourites when the Chiefs take on the Crusaders in Hamilton. Join The Roar for live scores and updates from 5:05pm (AEDT).
With two of the most talented squads in New Zealand – and, by obvious extension, all of Super Rugby – both of today’s teams have been touted as genuine title threats for 2020.
The Crusaders are aiming for a fourth-straight title, but their chances for this evening’s match have been dealt a blow with star flyhalf Richie Mo’unga ruled out through injury.
The playmaker played through a few niggles in last week’s win over the Waratahs and coach Scott Robertson admitted he’d be in the side were today’s match a final, but so early in the season there’s little to be gained by fielding such an important player through an injury. Regular fullback David Havili will take the no.10 jersey.
Plus, it’s not as if all the selection news bodes ill for the defending champions. All Blacks Sevu Reece and Codie Taylor come into the starting XV after playing from the bench against the Tahs, while Joe Moody and George Bridge will make their first appearances of the year.
If we’re talking season debuts, the Chiefs have some significant news on that front: Damian McKenzie, who missed the first-round encounter with the Blues, is in the side at fullback for his first Super Rugby match since suffering the ACL injury which saw him miss much of 2019, including the World Cup.
After impressing from the bench in the win over the Blues, Aaron Cruden comes into the run-on side at flyhalf, giving the Chiefs a formidable 10-12-15 combination of Cruden, Anton Lienert-Brown and McKenzie.
McKenzie won’t play the full 80 minutes in his return. Coach Warren Gatland has admitted he’ll be easing the star fullback back into the game, with the main aim over the next few months getting the two-time Super Rugby player of the year ready for All Blacks selection again.
So early in the season it’s hard to get much of a read on where any sides are at. At their best, the Chiefs and Crusaders will be formidable opponents for any team, but they’re both some weeks away from reaching that level yet.
The Christchurch team looked comfortably the better of the two in Round 1, but having lost Mo’unga, and with McKenzie and Cruden in the starting XV for the Chiefs, I’ll give the edge to the home side here, if only just.
Chiefs by 4.
Kick-off: 5:05pm (AEDT)
Venue: FMG Stadium Waikato
TV: Fox Sports
Online: Kayo Sports, Foxtel
Odds: Crusaders $1.83, Chiefs $2.01
1. Aidan Ross, 2. Samisoni Taukei’aho, 3. Atu Moli, 4. Tyler Ardron, 5. Mitchell Brown, 6. Lachlan Boshier, 7. Mitchell Karpik, 8. Sam Cane (c), 9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 10. Aaron Cruden, 11. Solomon Alaimalo, 12. Anton Lienert-Brown, 13. Quinn Tupaea, 14. Sean Wainui, 15. Damian McKenzie
Reserves: 16. Bradley Slater, 17. Ross Geldenhuys, 18. Ollie Norris, 19. Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20. Pita Gus Sowakula, 21. Brad Weber, 22. Kaleb Trask, 23. Alex Nankivell
1. Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Oliver Jager, 4. Scott Barrett (c), 5. Mitchell Dunshea, 6. Tom Sanders, 7. Tom Christie, 8. Whetukamokamo Douglas, 9. Mitchell Drummond, 10. David Havili, 11. George Bridge, 12. Jack Goodhue, 13. Braydon Ennor, 14. Sevu Reece, 15. Will Jordan
Reserves: 16. Andrew Makalio, 17. George Bower, 18. Michael Alaalatoa, 19. Luke Romano, 20. Cullen Grace, 21. Bryn Hall, 22. Brett Cameron, 23. Leicester Faingaanuku