Tipoki gets a shot at the Reds

Crusaders coach Robbie Deans has made a number of positional changes, but brought in just one new player for his team’s Round Two Super 14 encounter with the Reds in Christchurch on Saturday.

Experienced midfielder Rua Tipoki, who starts at second-five-eighths (No.12), is the only newcomer to the starting XV – compared to the side that lost to the Blues in Auckland last week.

Tipoki, who has 43 previous Super rugby appearances to his name, became the 111th player to appear for the Crusaders when he made his debut for the franchise off the bench during the second half of the match at Eden Park.

His inclusion has necessitated a minor reshuffle in the backline, with powerful back Casey Laulala moving out one place to outside centre, while 113-game veteran Caleb Ralph reverts to the wing – which is where he finished the match in Auckland.

All Black Scott Hamilton moves from wing to fullback, with Brent Ward dropping to the bench.

Although better known as a winger – the position from which he played two Test matches for New Zealand last year – Hamilton is also an accomplished fullback, and has performed from that position with credit for the Crusaders in the past.

The 26-year-old, who will be playing his 37th match for the Crusaders, started at fullback during a 28-21 win against the ACT Brumbies at Canberra during his debut season in 2003. He has since appeared in the position on three further occasions for the Crusaders in 2004, and in one match during each of the last two campaigns.

The starting forward pack is the same as that which tackled the Blues, with the sole change being on the bench, where the 21-year-old utility forward Michael Paterson is added in the place of Peter Nixon. The 2006 New Zealand Under-21 representative offers cover for both the second row and blindside flank.

Should Paterson feature against the Reds, he will be the only Crusader on debut, and the 115th overall, after five players made their first competition appearances for the franchise last week.

While the Crusaders take a proud home record into Saturday’s first home match of the campaign, coach Robbie Deans says the only thing that matters is the 80 minutes upcoming.

“The rest, as they say, is history and can’t help us now,” Deans said on the Crusaders’ website.

“We’ve had some great battles with Queensland, and they’ve always been tough games. This weekend will be no different, but the players are looking forward to getting out onto Jade for the first time this year and performing in front of what will hopefully be a big home crowd.”

Crusaders: 15 Scott Hamilton, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Rua Tipoki, 11 Caleb Ralph, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Andrew Ellis, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Johnny Leo’o, 6 Kieran Read, 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Ross Filipo, 3 Campbell Johnstone, 2 Corey Flynn (c), 1 Ben Franks
Replacements: 16 Ti’i Paulo, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Paterson, 19 Jake Paringatai, 20 Kevin Senio, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 Brent Ward

Date: Saturday, 10 February
Venue: Jade Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19.35 (06.35 GMT)
Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)
Touch judges: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Gary Wise (New Zealand)
Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

365 Digital

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