Five players to watch: The Crusaders

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Scott Barrett (Lock) 

 

All Blacks Tests: 36, Test points: 25

Super Rugby games 69 – Crusaders. Points: 65

 

With skipper Sam Whitelock having a sabbatical and playing rugby in Japan for the 2020 Super Rugby campaign, Scott Barrett will have an important part to play in sustaining the experience and drive from the Crusaders' middle row.

 

Now a fully-fledged Test player, he has been part of the triple crown of Super Rugby wins the Crusaders have achieved and has been an integral part of the pack. While the steady hand of Luke Romano will also be available, it will be the way Barrett is able to work with Quinten Strange and Mitchell Dunshea that will be crucial for the Crusaders as they look to add to their longer term success.

 

 

Braydon Ennor (Utility back)

 

All Blacks Tests: 1.

Super Rugby games 25 – Crusaders. Points: 60

Mitre 10 Cup (Canterbury) 24. Points: 85

 

Losing the experience of Ryan Crotty is significant for the Crusaders while Tim Bateman is also not in the squad. That should see Braydon Ennor get the opportunity to play more regularly in the midfield, whether at second five-eighths or centre, in combination with Jack Goodhue.

 

While he has shown his ability on the wing, the midfield is his preferred position and that was where he made his mark for New Zealand Under-20 in 2017 and in a memorable outing against the Blues in the opening game of the 2018 Super Rugby campaign. A fine distributor of the ball, with ability to split defences with his speed, Ennor is set to make a big impact as both the All Blacks and Crusaders look to rebuild their midfield options.

 

Will Jordan (Fullback)

 

Super Rugby games 9 – Crusaders. Points: 40

Mitre 10 Cup (Tasman) 44. Points: Tasman 140

 

Injury has been a frustration for fullback Will Jordan during what should have been the formative years of his Super Rugby career. Like Ennor, a member of the Junior World Cup-winning side of 2017, he has tremendous skill running into the backline, and speed to burn, as Tasman has seen during their Mitre 10 Cup-winning season this year.

 

With the ability to play on the wing as well, Jordan is genuinely exciting and the sort of player who could make a big impact if able to avoid the injuries that have curtailed his impact to date. Given the potentially lethal backline the Crusaders could field, Jordan has a key role to play.

 

 

Tom Christie (Flanker)

 

Mitre 10 Cup (Canterbury) 23. Points: 5

 

A former captain of New Zealand Under-20, flanker Tom Christie has been quietly going about preparing himself for the job he will face for the Crusaders next year. With Matt Todd now off the scene, the opportunity to make the openside flanker role his own is there for Christie.

 

The loose forwards have been a cornerstone of the Crusaders' success in recent years but they have been forced to rebuild with Jordan Taufua also heading offshore. Christie, with his undoubted leadership skills, will have a central part in ensuring that the continuity is retained in this department.

 

Ethan Roots (Flanker)

 

Mitre 10 Cup (North Harbour) 10.

 

It is difficult to deny the talent-spotting ability of the Crusaders' organisation and their decision to include blindside flanker Ethan Roots in their squad may be another example of their successful recruiting. He's only played 10 first-class games for North Harbour but he brings benefits from his other involvement in top-level sport jiu jitsu where he was good enough to be a New Zealand age-group champion and a national representative.

 

It was a clear sign of his potential that North Harbour coach Kieran Keane fielded him in 10 games for his side this year. The competition for places with Ethan Blackadder, Sione Havili and Tom Sanders will be tough but it will not surprise if Roots manages to thrive in the Crusaders' environment.

 

Crusaders 2020 Squad:

 

Michael Alaalatoa, Harry Allan, Scott Barrett (c), Ethan Blackadder, George Bower, Tom Christie, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Mitchell Dunshea, Cullen Grace, Billy Harmon, Sione Havili, Oliver Jager, Andrew Makalio, Brodie McAlister, Joe Moody, Luke Romano, Ethan Roots, Tom Sanders, Quinten Strange, Codie Taylor, Isi Tuungafasi. George Bridge, Fergus Burke, Brett Cameron, Mitchell Drummond, Ere Enari, Braydon Ennor, Leicester Faingaanuku, Inga Finau, Jack Goodhue, Bryn Hall, David Havili, Will Jordan, Manasa Mataele, Dallas McLeod, Richie Mo'unga, Fetuli Paea, Sevu Reece.

 

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