Hooker Ti’i Paulo is the only change to the Crusaders starting XV as they try to win a seventh Super rugby title in Saturday night’s final against the Waratahs in Christchurch.
It’s an alteration forced by injury after regular rake Corey Flynn broke an arm in last weekend’s impressive 33-22 semifinal win over the Hurricanes.
RugbyHeaven NZ reports that master coach Robbie Deans predictably saw no reason to tinker with the winning formula after the struggling Crusaders kicked back into life in impressive fashion in the semifinal.
Paulo got an extended run against the Hurricanes after coming on in the 12th minute and the red and blacks will lose little through his presence in the final.
“It’s obviously bad luck for Corey, but we have every confidence in Ti’i,” said Deans.
“He’s played very well for us when given the opportunity, and I’m sure he will do so again.”
The injury has also allowed a promotion for Crusaders wider training group member Steve Fualau, who comes onto the bench as the only personnel change from last week’s match-day squad.
Deans, seeking his fifth title as coach before he departs New Zealand to take over as Wallabies coach, was typically stoic when discussing the final against a Waratahs side that is certainly on the improve.
The Crudsaders won the round-robin match 34-7 on March 21 but the Tahs have been the most consistent side over the second half of the tournament and also have the motivation of trying to see off their coach in stkle with Ewen McKenzie set to leave the Sydney side.
“We’ve come through the semifinal well to give ourselves the opportunity,” said Deans on the Crusaders’ website.
“But what’s gone before counts for nothing. The Waratahs have shown themselves to be a very resilient opponent.
“They are a team that has overcome their share of adversity to be peaking at the right time. As such, they are very definitely going to be the toughest challenge that we have faced this year, but that’s as it should be in the final.”
The Crusaders and Waratahs met in the 2005 decider when the Crusaders prevailed 35-25 to lift the last Super 12 title.
Fullback Leon MacDonald, centre Casey Laulala, first-five-eighths Daniel Carter, No 8 Mose Tuiali’i, flankers Richard McCaw and Reuben Thorne and prop Greg Somerville remain from that side.
The Waratahs have only won once in Christchurch, back in 2004, and the home ground advantage will be a significant factor in this final, especially with the emotions surrounding Deans.
CRUSADERS: 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Scott Hamilton, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andrew Ellis, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Richard McCaw (captain), 6 Kieran Read, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Ti’i Paulo, 1 Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: 16 Steve Fualau , 17 Ben Franks, 18 Reuben Thorne, 19 Nasi Manu, 20 Kahn Fotuali’i, 21 Stephen Brett, 22 Sean Maitland.Tweet