MacDonald knows the importance of Sunday's clash against the Crusaders

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Coach Leon MacDonald said the Blues liked playing at home and were keen to make Eden Park a difficult place for other teams to win, and that was the challenge they were setting for themselves in the game.


History, and the fact the Blues haven't beaten the Crusaders since 2014, hadn't been a factor in their preparation because the motivation had always been within the side.


MacDonald said there had always been a great rivalry between the sides, and there was a lot of excitement surrounding Sunday's game.


"We felt we had a good opportunity to beat them last year down in Christchurch and a couple of mistakes cost us. We're conscious of how on you have got to be against them because they do make you pay with every opportunity," he said.


He said having two wins to start the season had helped confidence and they had worked out what they do well and were looking to do that more often.


"But when you get put under pressure that's a different thing, and we're going to try and do that to the Crusaders, and they'll be trying to do the same to us, so it's going to be a big arm wrestle," he said.


Lock Josh Goodhue has returned to the side after being given the benefit of an extra week in preparation.



Returning New Zealand Sevens international Bryce Heem will make his debut, replacing Mark Telea, who is out after a head injury.


"That was a really tough decision, we've had a lot of guys putting their hand up there. Bryce gives us a bit of experience. He's a big body, he's fast and a big work rate and I think an older head out there in the cauldron is useful," he said.


Loosehead prop Alex Hodgman would also return to the starting side for the first time this season.


The Crusaders had dominated through their set-piece. Their lineout, scrum and maul were all world-class, and MacDonald didn't know if there were many better teams around the world, even at Test level.


Getting dominance over them in any one of the three areas would be a good start, he said.


Teams knew they had to apply themselves for 80-83 minutes, staying mentally attuned and working hard with no breaks if they were to get a successful result.




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