Rugby: Brodie can't wait to lock horns with fellow ABs

Second-row showdown as Chiefs' tall timber face Sam Whitelock and Romano.

Brodie Retallick is looking forward to proving himself against the Crusaders tonight. Photo / Getty Images
Brodie Retallick is looking forward to proving himself against the Crusaders tonight. Photo / Getty Images

Brodie Retallick won't deny it - he is relishing the opportunity to come up against fellow All Black locks Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano in Christchurch tonight.

Retallick's battle against Whitelock, the All Blacks' top-rated lock, and Romano will be one of several mouth-watering match-ups when the Chiefs take on the Crusaders at AMI Stadium.

The others include Ben Tameifuna against Wyatt Crockett in the front row, Sam Cane against Matt Todd in the No7 jersey and Aaron Cruden against Dan Carter at first-five.

"It's always something to look forward to, especially playing against the other two locks," Retallick said.

"It's a chance to prove yourself. It's in the back of the mind, I'm not trying to think about it too much, but it's always going to be there, knowing that you're going up against those two."

A single competition point will be enough for the Chiefs to top the New Zealand conference heading into the play-offs, while the home side will be desperate for points to cement themselves in the top six. The Crusaders will also be keen to start from where they finished their 40-12 victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin last weekend, a match notable for the form and influence of Carter and rare four-try bonus point for coach Todd Blackadder's men.

The last time Retallick, 22, was in Christchurch he suffered the misfortune of straining a hamstring only two days out from the All Blacks' second test against France.

It was disappointing for the man who hails from Canterbury - his parents live in Amberley, north of Christchurch. Whitelock was his replacement and the Crusader enjoyed a standout performance in the convincing All Blacks' win after being rushed back from a finger injury.

Retallick also recovered quickly from his injury - thanks to plenty of massage and acupuncture from the All Blacks' and Chiefs' medics - and turned in a powerful 60-minute performance for his side against the Hurricanes in Hamilton last Friday night. It was initially thought that he would miss the match but his immense workrate suggested he had never been away.

"I didn't get into any real training until Wednesday but I didn't want to rush back, I didn't want it to put me out for any longer," he said.

He feels there is plenty of improvement left in him and his side after they battled to subdue a typically lively Hurricanes.

"At the weekend we showed in patches that we're starting to click again but in some patches we're still rusty."

Despite a second-string look to the Crusaders forward pack, they competed well against the Highlanders and more of the same will be required against the Chiefs, this time with big guns Romano, Wyatt Crockett, Corey Flynn, Owen Franks and Kieran Read leading from the front. Retallick's knack of clearing bodies at the breakdown will be crucial for a Chiefs team keen on quick ball.

His lineout work in tandem with skipper Craig Clarke will also be key to the outcome.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has decided to use the bigger Charlie Ngatai at centre instead of Tim Nanai-Williams in what is likely to be a match of thunderous collisions, with Canterbury representative Patrick Osborne on the right wing and Asaeli Tikoirotuma switching to the left.

"They're still a chance for the play-offs," Retallick said of what was at stake. "It's a big match for them and it's a big match for us."

Tough at top: three reasons why this match is so important

1 Hosting rights

The Crusaders are unlikely to finish top of the NZ conference - the Chiefs need one competition point to seal it - but the onus is on both teams to finish as high up the table as they can to improve their chances of hosting play-off matches. At worst, the Chiefs will host a qualifier match in a fortnight, but they should finish higher than that. Hosting a qualifier might be the best hope for the Crusaders, after their characteristically slow start to the year.

2 Momentum

Both teams finished their most recent matches a lot stronger than they started them. The Chiefs looked rusty in their win over the Hurricanes after four weeks off, but finished convincingly, and the Crusaders turned on the razzle-dazzle under the roof in Dunedin. Both teams will have an eye on the play-offs but can't afford to ease off with one regular season match still to come. Momentum at this time of the season is hugely important.

3 Black flags

There are All Black match-ups galore here, and all will be keen to impress with a view to the Rugby Championship. The Chiefs have six current or former All Blacks in their starting XV, and the Crusaders have 12 in theirs, including the entire forward pack. If you had to focus on one match-up of particular intrigue, watch the No7s, Sam Cane and Matt Todd, go hammer and tongs. Steve Hansen is likely to be an interested spectator.

Chiefs v Crusaders
Christchurch, 7.35pm

Israel Dagg
Tom Marshall
Ryan Crotty
Tom Taylor
Zac Guildford
Dan Carter
Andy Ellis
+Kieran Read
Matt Todd
George Whitelock
Sam Whitelock
Luke Romano
Owen Franks
Corey Flynn
Wyatt Crockett

Chiefs: Mahonri Schwalger, Ben Afeaki, Michael Fitzgerald, Tanerau Latimer, Augustine Pulu, Andrew Horrell, Tim Nanai-Williams.

Robbie Robinson
Patrick Osborne
Charlie Ngatai
Bundee Aki
A Tikoirotuma
Aaron Cruden
T Kerr-Barlow
Matt Vant Leven
Sam Cane
Liam Messam
Brodie Retallick
+Craig Clarke
Ben Tameifuna
Hika Elliot
Pauliasi Manu

Crusaders: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Tom Donnelly, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Tyler Bleyendaal, Telusa Veainu.


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