Richie Mo'unga is back for the Crusaders as they attempt to extend a 10-match winning record over the Blues.

The Blues last beat the Crusaders in 2014 and while it has been close since – like round one last year at Eden Park when the visitors sneaked home 24-22 - there have been occasional ugly ones from a Blues perspective. In 2018 in Christchurch the Crusaders thrashed the Blues 54-17.

And while the titles have piled up in Christchurch – three in three years for them and their coach Scott Robertson - the last time the Blues made the playoffs was in 2011.

So while the Blues will go into the match with their confidence boosted following a good win over the Waratahs in Newcastle, they will need to lift again significantly in order to beat a team with that weight of history behind them, plus the assistance of All Blacks first-five Mo'unga, one of the best playmakers in the game.


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Mo'unga missed his side's 25-15 defeat to the Chiefs in Hamilton due to groin and knee issues, but, as Robertson said today: "He's good. Like I said last week, he was pretty keen to play but we decided the best thing was to give him an extra week. He's good to go."

Not so good is loose forward Whetukamokamo Douglas, out with two broken fingers. But with David Havili back at fullback after playing at No10 at Waikato Stadium, and Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue and George Bridge in the backline, the Crusaders will not lack for firepower.

Not that Robertson is thinking about his side's recent record against the Blues.

"If you look at the last few years, they've led us, we've come from behind, they've pushed us late in games," he said. "These are all tough games, they're earned, they're not gimmes. It will be no different on Friday.

"I think you saw the best of the Blues in the last 10 minutes against the Waratahs. They can rip you apart. They've got a lot of power, they've got structure – Leon's a good coach. We're expecting another hell of a game, just like we have had over the last 10 years."

Crusaders team to play Blues at Eden Park on Friday, kick-off 7.05pm is: David Havili, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Tom Sanders, Tom Christie, Cullen Grace, Mitchell Dunshea, Scott Barrett (c), Oliver Jager, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody.

Reserves: Andrew Makalio, George Bower, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Sione Havili, Mitchell Drummond, Brett Cameron, Will Jordan.


• You can follow the Blues v Crusaders showdown via the Herald's live blog, and watch live on SKY Sport 1 from 6.30pm on Friday.