Injury-hit Crusaders looking for a lift against the Chiefs

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Beaten two weeks ago by the Highlanders and pushed to a golden-point win over the Hurricanes at the weekend, the Crusaders face a Chiefs side nothing like that that ran up 11 consecutive losses before turning their fortunes around.

 

Assistant coach Jason Ryan said the Chiefs were the most consistent forward pack in the competition who had a 100 per cent scrum in the last three games.

 

"They're getting better and better, a totally different forward pack than we played in the first round and we've got the utmost respect for them. They are right up there so it's going to be another lift for us," he said.

 

But they will have to do without some core experience.

 

Flanker Tom Christie is out for both the remainder of Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa and the Bunnings Cup after shoulder surgery.

 

All Blacks prop Joe Moody and centre Jack Goodhue are still to have MRI scans, and their time out won't be known until their scan results are available.

 

Moody's situation represented an opportunity for George Bower while Isi Tuungafasi had been with the side for a long time, and Tamaiti Williams could play loosehead as well, Ryan said.

 

Injuries were a problem every year, and it was a case of trusting your squad, he said.

 

"We've just had a bit of a run at the moment, but all going well that will change. Super Rugby Aotearoa does make it harder to give guys an opportunity. It's Test match intensity, and it's getting harder and harder. These last couple of weeks, everyone has seen a shift in intensity.

 

"We plan for it. We're always doing our 'what-ifs' and if we lose certain players we trust the next man in," he said.

The coaching staff were pleased with how the Crusaders handled the golden point situation in Wellington on Sunday to claim a win with a dropped goal.

 

They trained each week for that scenario, but to achieve it in a pressure situation was a different matter, he said.

 

"We knew what we wanted to achieve, and they knew and that's where we want to live, that's where this team wants to live, pressure every week. The more pressure the better, we love it," he said.

 

News that Michael Alaalatoa would be playing with Leinster from later in the year would end a five-year association between the pair.

 

"I've seen him grow from strength to strength from when we came in, Razor [coach Scott Robertson] and our crew five years ago and he was a pretty quiet young Samoan boy who sat there and did what he was told," he said.

 

He had developed to the point where he played a leadership role, and he would be someone Ryan would miss.

 

"I know he'll do really well with Leinster. He's been phenomenal and he's getting better and better," he said.

 

Alaalatoa had changed his body shape since joining the team, having lost 30kg and was a much more mobile player.

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