Leigh Halfpenny starts as Crusaders name team for Munster clash


The Crusaders have named their team to play Munster at a sold-out Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday (Sunday NZT).

While the team opted not to bring any of their 2023 Rugby World Cup participants on the tour north, the 25 players named for the opening pre-season fixture does still feature some significant international experience.

In the front row especially, with George Bower and Owen Franks the starting props. A familiar face to European fans, Leigh Halfpenny will get his first Crusaders cap, featuring in the 15 jersey. Ryan Crotty may also make his Crusaders return, being named on the bench.

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The strength of the team’s loose forward stocks sees Super Rugby Pacific’s fourth-leading ball carrier in 2023, Christian Lio-Willie, named on the bench behind one-time All Black Cullen Grace at No 8. Grace is joined by Super Rugby’s perennial top tackler Tom Christie at openside flanker and the promising Dominic Gardiner at 6.

Lock Quinten Strange leads the team as captain with rookie Tahlor Cahill as his locking partner.

Youngster and recent U20 representative Taha Kemara joins stalwart halfback Mitchell Drummond in the starting halves while aspiring All Blacks Dallas McLeod and Levi Aumua make up the midfield.

Kemara, 20, recently spoke of the opportunity to make his first start for the club.

“I don’t know if I see it as pressure, I just see it as an opportunity to express myself out on the rugby field,” he said in a clip on the Crusaders’ social media.

“Not every day do you get the opportunity to lead a team like the Crusaders, even if it is just in preseason but I’m just going to try and take every opportunity that comes my way and just do my job for the team.

“(New head coach) Rob Penney’s been awesome, he’s been giving myself confidence. Tamati Ellison has just been someone to lean on for me, giving me confidence to step out of my comfort zone and the boys have full trust in whoever’s leading them.”

Halpenny’s experience is complemented by youth in the outside backs with Macca Springer and Chay Fihaki lining up on the wings.

Crusaders team to face Munster:

1. George Bower
2. George Bell
3. Owen Franks
4. Quinten Strange
5. Tahlor Cahill
6. Dominic Gardiner
7. Tom Christie
8. Cullen Grace
9. Mitchell Drummond
10. Taha Kemara
11. Macca Spinger
12. Dallas McLeod
13. Levi Aumua
14. Chay Fihaki
15. Leigh Halfpenny

Reserves:

16. Ioane Moananu
17. Kershawl Sykes-Martin
18. Seb Calder
19. Jamie Hannah
20. Christian Lio-Willie
21. Noah Hotham
22. Rivez Reihana
23. Ryan Crotty
24. Josh Southall
25. Heremaia Murray





Source link: https://www.rugbypass.com/news/halfpenny-starts-as-crusaders-name-team-to-face-munster/

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