The Canterbury machine looks poised again to be New Zealand’s front runner in the newly formatted Super 15 Rugby Competition.
If you were a coach with free reign to select whoever you wished in the Shaky Isles, you would be happy if you ended up with this lot.
It is an enviable squad packed full of All Blacks, with the entire pack with international experience complimented with an equally talented backline division.
The notable additions this year are yet two more 2010 All Blacks, with Israel Dagg’s move north from the Highlanders and Sonny Bill Williams arrival from Toulon in France. Both players are sure to feature for the All Blacks in the run into the 2011 RWC.
Current 2010 All Blacks include:
Richie McCaw, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Sam Whitelock, Brad Thorn, Kieran Read, Daniel Carter, Sonny Bill Williams, Andy Ellis, and Israel Dagg.
There are also former All Blacks in the form of :
Chris Jack, Zac Guilford, George Whitelock and Wyatt Crockett.
International flavour is added by Kahn Fotuali’i who is the current Samoan scrum half.
The Crusaders also illustrate how they look to look after their own with the promotion of five players from their wider training group from last year with scrumhalf Willi Heinz, prop Andrew Olorenshaw, lock Joe Wheeler, hooker Quentin MacDonald and flanker Matt Todd all making the step up to the full squad for 2011.
Their are also several new Super Rugby players in the form of Tasman five-eighth Tom Marshall, Southland prop Nick Barrett, Canterbury lock Luke Romano and Canterbury Colt and New Zealand Under-19 captain Tyler Bleyendaal.
Finally the lure of the region is as strong as always, with accurate goal kicking fly half Matt Berquist and rake David Hall (from the Highlanders) new additions.
All in all a squad that looks like it will have the fire power to cruise through the Conference and make the last six of the competition for the 2011 play-offs.
It also seems only All Black Captain McCaw and 35 year old lock Brad Thorn will be given an extended summer break, with all other All Blacks expected to front for the first match of the competition. It looks like the directive from the All Black selectors is for the current All Blacks to be given a two week break at some stage of the season preferably around the time when the team is experiencing a bye round.
Todd Blackadder will commence his third season as coach, and will be very keen to win a Super Rugby title, with the last crown coming in 2008 under Robbie Deans (who has won a record five championships).
He is assisted this year by new forwards coach Dave Hewett, the former manager of the Canterbury team last year, taking over from Mark Hammett who moves to take charge of the Hurricanes.
Crusaders Full Squad
Fullbacks: Israel Dagg
Wingers: Zac Guildford, Sean Maitland, Adam Whitelock
Midfield: Ryan Crotty, Robbie Fruean, Tom Marshall, Sonny Bill Williams
First five-eigths: Matt Berquist, Tyler Bleyendaal, Daniel Carter
Halfbacks: Andy Ellis, Kahn Fotuali’i, Willi Heinz
Loose forwards: Richie McCaw, Jonathan Poff, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, George Whitelock
Locks: Chris Jack, Luke Romano, Brad Thorn, Joe Wheeler, Sam Whitelock
Props: Nicholas Barrett, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Andrew Olorenshaw
Hookers: Corey Flynn, David Hall, Quentin MacDonald
Crusaders Super Record
1998 Crusaders beat Blues 20 – 13 in the Final – Super 12 Champions
1999 Crusaders beat Highlanders 24 – 19 in the Final – Super 12 Champions
2000 Crusaders beat Brumbies 20 – 19 in the Final – Super 12 Champions
2002 Crusaders beat Brumbies 31 – 13 in the Final – Super 12 Champions
2003 Crusaders lost to the Blues 17 – 21 in the Final – Super 12 Runner Up
2004 Crusaders lost to the Brumbies 38 – 47 in the Final – Super 12 Runner Up
2005 Crusaders beat Waratahs 35 – 25 in the Final – Super 12 Champions
2006 Crusaders beat the Hurricanes 19 – 12 in the Final – Super 14 Champions
2007 Crusaders losing Semi Finalist
2008 Crusaders beat Waratahs 20 – 12 in the Final – Super 14 Champions
2009 Crusaders losing Semi Finalist
2010 Crusaders losing Semi Finalist