Squad Naming | Round Three v Drua
The Crusaders have named their squad to take on the Fijian Drua in Fiji on Saturday afternoon as we enter Round 3 of Super Rugby Pacific 2023.
The Drua are celebrating a full season of home games this year, welcoming teams from across the pacific to take on the pride of Fiji.
Meanwhile, the boys in red and black are coming off a dominant Super Round performance against the Highlanders in Melbourne. The pieces are in place for a huge encounter at Churchill Park in Lautoka.
For Captain Scott Barrett it’s a biggie – 100 games in the Crusaders jersey. The veteran debuted in 2014 in an exhibition match against England, and now nine years later he leads the boys out as captain. Epic effort Scooter, we’re all proud of you and are stoked your family can join you in Fiji for the occasion.
Willi Heinz gets his first start back in the jersey after a sojourn overseas. David Havili returns to the mid field after a huge game last weekend. Chay Fihaki will take up fullback responsibilities.
Three potential debutants occupy seats on the bench. Ioane Moananu and Kershawl Sykes-Martin have their opportunity to join the front row, while Taha Kemara looks to slot into first-five. A lot has been said about fresh talent in the team this year, with Kemara’s name often the first to roll off the tongue.
Scott Hansen, Crusaders Assistant Coach, said the team were excited about “an awesome opportunity to play the Fijian Drua here at home”. The team travelled north to the island on Wednesday afternoon.
“Some boys will be making their debut, and others will be playing their first game for the Crusaders for awhile. We’re excited for all those boys and their families,” Hansen said.
In some ways, the future has arrived hasn’t it, it’s here now, so we’re very excited to see those boys out there.
While the one-hour time difference is unlikely to impact preparation, temperature and humidity the being taken into account. Hansen said a number of the boys had played in Fiji before, and “there’s been a lot of experience shared”.
“[The Fijian Drua] have a real skill set, they’ve got a true belief in open running rugby, and they’ll make some decisions from areas of the field that possibly other teams wouldn’t around their attack,” he said.
The Crusaders take on he Fijian Drua at 4.35pm (5.35pm NZT) on Saturday 11 March from Churchill Park in Lautoka, Fiji. It’s set to be a proper battle in front of a passionate home crowd. Don’t miss this one, and Crusade On.
- George Bower
- Quentin MacDonald
- Tamaiti Williams
- Scott Barrett (100th Game)
- Sam Whitelock
- Sione Havili Talitui
- Tom Christie
- Christian Lio-Willie
- Willi Heinz
- Fergus Burke
- Macca Springer
- David Havili
- Braydon Ennor
- Sevu Reece
- Chay Fihaki
- Ioane Moananu (Debut)
- Kershawl Sykes-Martin (Debut)
- Seb Calder
- Zach Gallagher
- Corey Kellow
- Noah Hotham
- Taha Kemara (Debut)
- Dallas McLeod
Team Naming | March 24 v Brumbies
After a big win against the Blues at Eden Park in Round 4 last weekend, the team are riding high and ready to take on the currently unbeaten Brumbies.
Dallas McLeod gets the nod in the midfield after a Man-of-the-Match performance in Auckland. Nine carries, nine defenders beaten and 18 tackles, and some quick footwork to set up scoring opportunities – McLeod is in great form as we climb into the season proper.
“Dallas’ performance was something he was proud of, as were we,” said Crusaders Head Coach Scott Robertson, fresh off his announcement as All Blacks Head Coach from 2024.
“He took his opportunities and we’re pleased for him.”
Pepesana Patafilo, who debuted in the red and black last week comes into the starting XV in the 14 jersey. The winger was surprised by his selection against the Blues – probably time to get used to the feeling of donning the jersey he moved south from Wellington to play in.
“We saw Peps energy off the bench and now he’s got the opportunity to light it up from the start,” Robertson.
Meanwhile, Zach Gallagher returns to the starting XV in his first start of the 2023 season.
First five Richie Mo’unga will bring up his 99th cap for the Crusaders this week, set to make his 100th appearance at home against Moana Pasifika on Good Friday (7 April).
With 49 tackles between them last week, the loosehead trio of Ethan Blackadder, Tom Christie and Sione Talitui returns against the Brumbies, bringing strength and experience to side.
Robertson said the Brumbies were “a strong side and we’re expecting a big contest”.
“It’s great to be playing back at home. We’ve had some historic matches against the Brumbies and our fierce rivalry brings out the best from both of us and we expect it again this Friday.
“The Brumbies are in great nick so far this season, a strong side, and we’re focused on our performance based on efforts.”
Get your tickets here for Friday night! Kick-off 7:05pm.
O’Connor, Annan to start in Reds Suncorp Stadium return
The Queensland Reds have made three changes to their starting XV ahead of this Sunday’s Harvey Norman Super Rugby Pacific Round 4 clash against the Fijian Drua.
In what will be Queensland’s first appearance at Suncorp Stadium in 2023, James O’Connor will return to the starting side at flyhalf after making a successful comeback from injury via the bench, while Taj Annan will make his first Super Rugby start at inside centre.
Jock Campbell will also return to the run-on team at fullback, with the Queensland forward pack remaining unchanged after last week’s narrow loss to the Brumbies in Canberra.
Head coach Brad Thorn said: “We’re excited to be back at Suncorp this week. We love playing in front of our Queensland fans.
“The Drua are coming off a memorable win in Fiji. They’re a great attacking team and can hurt you from anywhere on the field.
“It should be a great afternoon with some fast, attacking Rugby on display.”
Campbell’s return to the number-15 jersey sees Jordan Petaia shift to the wing to partner Filipo Daugunu out wide, while Suliasi Vunivalu is set to provide firepower off the bench.
Annan will pair with Josh Flook in the centres after Hunter Paisami was ruled out with concussion.
Co-captain Tate McDermott and James O’Connor will reprise their partnership in the halves, while fellow skipper Liam Wright, Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson make for a settled backrow trio.
Seru Uru will look to recreate his heroics in last year’s fixture, with the lock scoring a crucial try and snatching a lineout steal in the final minutes to secure the win over the Drua in 2022. He’ll combine with Ryan Smith in the second row.
Dane Zander, Matt Faessler and Zane Nonggorr start in the front row in what will be Queensland’s second fixture against the Drua in Super Rugby Pacific.
The competition will celebrate its inaugural ‘Kids Round’ this weekend, with youngsters set to flood Suncorp Stadium for the family-friendly Sunday afternoon game. Tickets available via https://bit.ly/3ZGWgpX.
Queensland Reds v Fijian Drua, Sunday 19 March, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 3:00pm AEST. Watch live via Stan Sport.
- Dane Zander – University of Queensland – St Joseph’s Nudgee College – Albany Creek Brumbies
- Matt Faessler – Brothers – Toowoomba Grammar School – USQ Saints
- Zane Nonggorr – Bond University – The Southport School – Gold Coast Eagles
- Ryan Smith – Brothers – St Patrick’s College Shorncliffe – Caboolture Snakes
- Seru Uru – Wests – Ratu Kadavulevu School, Fiji – Namoli Rugby Club, Fiji
- Liam Wright (cc) – Easts – Anglican Church Grammar School – Easts
- Fraser McReight – Brothers – Brisbane Grammar School – Albany Creek Brumbies
- Harry Wilson – Brothers – St Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace – Gunnedah Red Devils
- Tate McDermott – University of Queensland – Sunshine Coast Grammar School – Flinders Rugby Club
- James O’Connor – Brothers – St Joseph’s Nudgee College – Brothers
- Filipo Daugunu – Wests – Dogotuki District School, Fjii
- Taj Annan* – Souths – Brisbane Boys College – Merewether Carlton
- Josh Flook – Brothers – St Joseph’s Nudgee College – Brothers
- Jordan Petaia – Wests – Brisbane State High School
- Jock Campbell – University of Queensland – The Southport School – Inverell Highlanders
- Richie Asiata – Easts – Anglican Church Grammar School
- Sef Fa’agase – Sunnybank – Shailer Park State High School – Beaudesert Warriors
- Peni Ravai – Easts – Ratu Kadavulevu School, Fiji
- Jake Upfield – Bond University – The Southport School
- Connor Vest – University of Queensland – Grafton High School – Grafton Junior Rugby Club
- Kalani Thomas – University of Queensland – Ipswich Grammar School – Souths
- Tom Lynagh – University of Queensland – Epsom College – Richmond Rugby Club
- Suliasi Vunivalu – Wests – Saint Kentigern College, Auckland
*denotes Queensland and Super Rugby Pacific starting debut
Squad Naming: Round Four vs Blues
The Crusaders have named their squad to take on the Blues this Saturday, 18 March, at Eden Park.
Round Four of Super Rugby Pacific 2023 brings up a rematch of the 2022 final, when Crusaders took out their sixth title beating the Blues 21-7 at home. Always a great Kiwi derby, both teams are set to front a strong pack in Auckland.
On debut is Pepesana Patafilo, set to make an impact off the bench. On his selection, Patafilo said he was “surprised and excited”.
Previously with the Hurricanes, Patafilo made the move south late last year and said the “attention to detail in the Crusaders environment is next level”.
Scott Robertson, Crusaders Head Coach, said Patafilo brought huge energy to the team.
“He works hard and tops a lot of our stats in our GPS tracking during training. So, we’re excited for him and so is he,” Robertson said.
Hooker Codie Taylor returns to the front row alongside Joe Moody and Tamaiti Williams, with Brodie McAlister, Kershawl Sykes-Martin and George Bower on impact. Sykes-Martin debuted last week in Fiji.
No more than 11 capped All Blacks will look to take the field on Saturday, including the likes of Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Ethan Blackadder, Braydon Ennor and Richie Mo’unga.
“It’s going to be a hell of a weekend,” Robertson said.
“We’ve had some historic games over the last few years haven’t we. They beat us at home, we’ve beat them up there and they’ve got some awesome rugby players playing for them.”
Sevu Reece and Leicester Fainga’anuku are taking the wings while Braydon Ennor and Dallas McLeod are covering centre. Fergus Burke returns to full back.
Coming off a loss in Fiji against the Drua last weekend, Robertson said the team showed a lot of effort “but it’s the execution part we’ve really focused on this week”.
“It’s another big game for us, another great opportunity for our players to go out and perform at a great local derby.”
“It’s great to have our hookers back, they weren’t available last week, and we decided to give our All Blacks the opportunity to have a rest week, so we welcome them back too.
Kick-off Saturday night at 7:05pm, Eden Park Auckland.
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