Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Genia poses big threat to Crusaders

Tom Taylor's all-clear from a head injury is a welcome boost for the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images
Tom Taylor's all-clear from a head injury is a welcome boost for the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images

Quade Cooper and Will Genia, the Reds' dynamic duo, will come in for special attention from the Crusaders tomorrow, but the initial focus from the home side will be on putting their pack on the back foot.

A retreating scrum is hard to attack from and the Crusaders will have worked even harder on their set piece this week despite it being one of the best parts of their game.

One of the Crusaders' mantras is to never neglect working on your strengths in favour of your weaknesses, something which will ring true in this finals series, the 12th consecutive year they have made it this far.

For a warning about halfback Genia's qualities, they need only look at the final between the two teams in Brisbane two years ago. It was his gliding 50m run for a try in the second half at Suncorp Stadium which took the match away from the travel-weary Crusaders.

He is returning from injury after a tough three-test series against the Lions but the 25-year-old remains one of the best No9s in the world.

It's anyone's guess what sort of form Cooper will turn up in. What is almost certain is that he will be booed by the AMI Stadium crowd for his history with home favourite Richie McCaw, who is in the Crusaders' match-day squad for the first time in 2013.

The boos are likely to be of the pantomime variety, but Cooper will be an extremely unpopular figure in Christchurch if the Reds knock the Crusaders out of the finals series. The crowd will also be aware of how the hostile reception for the Tokoroa-born playmaker helped knock him off his stride during the World Cup.

Crusaders loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett acknowledged his side needed to bring much greater physicality to their defence than they did against the Hurricanes.

"We make those first-up tackles and not let them get over the advantage line with their strikes and ball carriers," said Crockett.

The presence of the dependable Tom Taylor in the midfield, alongside Ryan Crotty, will help. Taylor's all-clear from a head injury is a massive boost for the Crusaders and not only because it allows Dan Carter to play in the playmaker's jersey.

Like Carter, Taylor is a good defender and his right-foot kicking is a good counterpoint to the All Black pivot's left boot.

The Reds also look a little light in midfield, with centre Anthony Faingaa ruled out with a strain and replaced by Jono Lance.

As ever, Reds coach Ewen McKenzie was putting a positive spin on the situation. "We have had to reshuffle our backline in some positions and the players coming in now have an opportunity to contribute in a positive way," he said.

The new Wallabies coach will also be hoping to continue his good record against the Crusaders, the Reds winning three of the last four matches between the sides.

"History tells us they have a strong record at home where they seemingly always find a way to prevail, but we pushed them in Christchurch in our last match and many teams have continued to do so and come close since."

Reds: Ben Lucas, Dom Shipperley, Ben Tapuai, Jono Lance, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Ed Quirk, James Horwill (capt), Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Saia Faingaa, Greg Holmes. Res: Albert Anae, Jono Owen, Ed O'Donoghue, Radike Samo, Beau Robinson, Nick Frisby, Luke Morahan.

Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Tom Marshall, Ryan Crotty, Tom Taylor, Zac Guildford, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis; Kieran Read (capt), Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Res: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Luke Whitelock, Richie McCaw, Willi Heinz, Tyler Bleyendaal, Adam Whitelock.


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