• Preview: Crusaders vs Chiefs

    The Chiefs start the defence of their Super Rugby title against their biggest rival for the New Zealand conference, the Crusaders, on Friday in Christchurch.

    The Chiefs possess the strongest group in terms of quality in numbers and while the Crusaders also have class, it is Dave Rennie's side who'll be the team to beat as the likes of Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Aaron Cruden, Tim Nanai-Williams and Tom Marshall are in their prime.

    The Crusaders’ selection for Friday hands Johnny McNicholl and Nafi Tuitavake chances to shine on the wing, with the former having scored a hat-trick last time out. Tyler Bleyendaal is given the nod over Tom Taylor at flyhalf while there is no Kieran Read, due to him being eased into 2014.

    Only six of the Chiefs' XV that edged the Brumbies in last year's final will run out in Christchurch, which illustrates Rennie's injury problems at the moment. However, both teams have named highly impressive benches that include six All Blacks.

    Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Reynold Lee-Lo, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Nafi Tuitavake, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 George Whitelock, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Tim Perry.
    Subs: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Rob Thompson.

    Chiefs – 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tevita Koloamatangi, 6 Liam Messam (capt) 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
    Subs: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Ben Afeaki, 19 Matt Symons/Liam Squire, 20 Nick Crosswell, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Andrew Horrell/Anton Leinert-Brown, 23 James Lowe.

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