Super Rugby 2019: Matt Todd to lead Crusaders against Blues

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has taken an opposite approach to counterpart - and former colleague - Leon MacDonald for their Super Rugby opener on Saturday.

While the new Blues mentor has opted to load his bench with All Blacks, as part of the national-team edict to nurse leading players through the early season, Robertson has thrust as many of his front-line performers as possible into his starting line-up.

While All Black skipper Kieran Read, lock Sam Whitelock, midfield Jack Goodhue and hooker Codie Taylor won't see action in Auckland, the two-time defending champions still have plenty of international-class depth to call on.

Openside flanker Matt Todd will captain the side, assisted by second-five Ryan Crotty.

International props Joe Moody and Owen Franks will anchor the scrum, with Scott Barrett in the second row and Richie Mo'unga at first-five. Out wide David Havili and George Bridge are both bolters for the Rugby World Cup squad later this year.

By contrast, the Blues have relegated All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams to the bench, along with props Karl Tu'inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi, to inject experience down the home stretch.

"I picked it actually, just to manage their minutes" said Robertson. "They've done it with their front-rowers as well, to ease guys in.

"We've obviously gone the opposite way round. We believe we just want to get the combos right early - there's a couple of ways to set your team up to succeed."

Robertson and MacDonald are long-time teammates with the All Blacks, Canterbury and Crusaders during their playing days, while also serving on the same coaching staff previously.

While there has been no pre-match banter between the two, Robertson is sure that will come on game day.

"He's been in successful cultures, and understands what that looks and feels like.

"I've coached with him quite a few times and understand how he works, so it's a bit of a game of chess and thinking what he might be thinking, and probably vice versa."

Tasman utility Will Jordan is poised to make his Super Rugby debut off the bench.

"He's a prodigious talent and you could see, in the pre-season, his ability to beat players and take opportunities," said coach Scott Robertson. "He's definitely got an eye for the gap and that extra bit of speed, so he'll get a go off the bench."

Crusaders: 1-Joe Moody, 2-Andrew Makalio, 3-Owen Franks, 4-Scott Barrett, 5-Quinten Strange, 6-Jordan Taufua, 7-Matt Todd, 8-Whetu Douglas, 9-Bryn Hall, 10-Richie Mo'unga, 11-George Bridge, 12-Ryan Crotty, 13-Braydon Ennor, 14-Manasa Mataele, 15-David Havili

Reserves: 16-Ben Funnell, 17-Tim Perry, 18-Michael Alaalatoa, 19-Luke Romano, 20-Tom Sanders, 21-Mitchell Drummond, 22-Mitchell Hunt, 23-Will Jordan


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