There is no Jack Goodhue for the Crusaders against the Blues but there are plenty of other All Blacks named to start for the defending champions at Eden Park as Scott Robertson strives to put one over his old mate Leon MacDonald.

MacDonald, the Blues head coach, has selected his All Black props Karl Tu'inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi on the reserves bench, but Robertson will send out the fearsome figures of Joe Moody and Owen Franks from the start in order to set the scrummaging agenda in particular.

The Crusaders coach is not able to select Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read or Codie Taylor due to their restricted workloads in World Cup year, but the rest of his front-liners are there, apart from midfielder Goodhue, who has a tight groin.

One of his more interesting selections is that of Braydon Ennor at centre alongside Ryan Crotty. As Robertson said, Ennor's geatest strength is his pace and the 21-year-old could test the ageing legs of Ma'a Nonu, the man he is marking.


Robertson said he wasn't surprised MacDonald, a former teammate and coaching assistant at the Crusaders, selected Nonu and TJ Faiane in the midfield with Sonny Bill Williams on the reserves bench.

"No, I picked it actually, just with managing their minutes and how they've done it with their front rowers as well – to ease these guys in," he said. "We've obviously gone the opposite way around. We want to get the combos in early and train that way.

"Ma'a is a seasoned professional. I was involved with him in the World XV team last year and he's in great nick for a 36-year-old about to turn 37. Respect to him and his professionalism. He's obviously got the game knowledge and, look, he'll make a difference with his power or boot or whatever it is. He's looking good, it's great, create some hype."

Richie Mo'unga, Matt Todd, Mitchell Hunt, and Ryan Crotty during Crusaders Training. Photo / Photosport
Richie Mo'unga, Matt Todd, Mitchell Hunt, and Ryan Crotty during Crusaders Training. Photo / Photosport

Speaking of hype, Robertson couldn't get enough of it as he prepares to lead his side to a third successive title against a team who haven't won a derby game since round one in 2016.

During Robertson's previous two years as head coach, the Crusaders have played round one at home. This is a little different and so is the fact he is coming up a coach who left the Crusaders to spend more time with his family, coached at Tasman, and then signed with the Blues soon after.

"I hope there are 40,000 people there and that the Blues are strong," Robertson said. "We've got to test ourselves and we want Super Rugby to be as strong as it can be.

"It's good to get the hype… it's been a tough few years for them, which is pretty clear, and that's why there's that sense of hope coming on. You want Eden Park to be full – you want every ground to be full. It's great the hype around this game – signing Ma'a and the changing of Leon [to head coach] – it's good for New Zealand rugby and it gets people watching footy."

Crusaders team to play Blues:
David Havili, Manasa Mataele, Braydon Ennor, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Whetu Douglas, Matt Todd ©, Jordan Taufua, Quinten Strange, Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Andrew Makalio, Joe Moody.

Reserves: Ben Funnell, Tim Perry, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Tom Sanders, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Will Jordan.