Rugby: Crusaders reserves only add to the Reds anxiety

Welcome back speedster Johnny McNicholl. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Welcome back speedster Johnny McNicholl. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The Crusaders will be targeting a bonus point Super Rugby victory over the struggling Reds in Christchurch tomorrow, and the team from Queensland need only look at the quality of depth on the home side's reserves bench to get an idea of what they are up against.

The Crusaders have won seven in a row this season, and should be rested by last weekend's bye. They lose big wing Nemani Nadolo to suspension but welcome back speedster Johnny McNicholl, and in Joe Moody, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Andy Ellis and Ryan Crotty on the reserves bench have five current or former All Blacks to call on.

The Reds, meanwhile, have won only two matches this season and are fourth of five teams in a relatively weak Australian conference.

Crusaders' coach Todd Blackadder has made five changes to the starting XV which beat the Brumbies 40-14 in a bonus point win which kept the heat on the table-topping Chiefs.

It is a strategy not without risk, but with the spirit within the squad as high as it has been during Blackadder's reign, he will be hoping all of his players make the most of their opportunities.

Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Johnny McNicholl, Kieron Fonotia, David Havili, Jone Macilai, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond, Kieran Read (c), Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Mike Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Tim Boys, Andy Ellis, Ryan Crotty, Marty McKenzie. Patrick McKendry

- NZ Herald

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