Thursday, February 23, 2012

Blues v Crusaders February 24, 2012
Eden Park, Auckland, Friday 5.35pm (AEDT)
Last meeting: Round 17 2011 - Crusaders 23 bt Blues 16 at Alpine Energy Stadium
 Chris Pollock (NZ)
Greg Growden writes: The sudden rise in depth in the Blues line-up is shown by their Test import Piri Weepu sitting on the bench. The Blues have always threatened, but with so many big names heading their way, they are at last a big chance of beating their rivals.

AAP writes: New Zealand's most passionate Super Rugby rivalry looms to be an intriguing battle with the Crusaders unable to put out their best line-up. The seven-time champions will still be tough to topple without Richie McCaw and Dan Carter but also have opted to play Israel Dagg on the wing and have All Black front-rowers Corey Flynn and Owen Franks on the bench. The Blues have also left prize recruit Piri Weepu on the bench for his Auckland debut while fellow Hurricane discard Ma’a Nonu will have to wait a bit longer to debut for his new franchise. Always an entertaining and close encounter.

Blues: Isaia Toeava, David Raikuna, Rene Ranger, Benson Stanley, Rudi Wulf, Michael Hobbs, Alby Mathewson; Jerome Kaino, Daniel Braid, Chris Lowrey, Ali Williams, Anthony Boric, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu (c), Tom McCartney. Reserves: Pauliasi Manu, Tevita Mailau, Brad Mika, Luke Braid, Piri Weepu, Hadleigh Parkes, Sherwin Stowers.

Crusaders: Tom Marshall, Sean Maitland, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Israel Dagg, Tyler Bleyendaal, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (c), Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Samuel Whitelock, Tom Donnelly, Ben Franks, Quentin MacDonald, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Corey Flynn, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Luke Whitelock, Willie Heinz, Patrick Osborne, Adam Whitelock.

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