Crusaders depth to be put to the test against Force in Christchurch

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All Blacks Richie Mo'unga, Sam Whitelock and Sevu Reece will all be on time off for the game along with prop George Bower.

 

That allows Fergus Burke to make his starting debut for the side at first five-eighths, and the same will apply for loosehead prop Tamaiti Williams, who has had five games off the substitutes bench earlier in the season.

 

"The one thing about having to rotate your All Blacks players, and keep them fresh, is it gives opportunities to someone else," he said.

 

"These guys have trained extremely hard. It just freshens up the squad. It's an opportunity. We've got to perform, and those guys are ready to do it.

 

The list of injury frustrations has grown. Lock Quinten Strange's neck irritation hadn't settled, and he could not perform as required at training. Flanker Ethan Blackadder and hooker Brodie McAlister were coping with concussion protocols.

 

But centre Braydon Ennor, who had a shoulder injury, and loose forward Tom Sanders, who suffered a broken nose, were back.

 

 

Prop Isileli Tuungafasi, lock Luke Romano, and wing Josh McKay had been named on the substitutes' bench.

 

Robertson said the Force had proven a tough side to break down in all the games so far, and they stayed in the game for the full 80 minutes.

 

"They've got a lot of experienced guys, they're tough," he said.

 

Captain and lock Scott Barrett said he enjoyed a break and felt refreshed while the team had enjoyed bonding during their two weeks in Australia.

 

But back home and searching for a finals place, the side needed to concentrate and ensuring they got a win.

 

Their position of needing to maintain bonus points and points differential required some important decision-making on the field, especially when choosing whether to take kicks for goal, kick to the corner or opt for scrums.

 

Barrett said he was expecting a tough contest from the Force.

 

"From what I've seen they are a niggly team, they look to put you under pressure in a number of facets – the breakdown, the collision and set-piece."

 

Former Hurricane Jeremy Thrush was central to their pack and would be leading the way in those areas, he said.

 

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