Super Rugby Pacific: David Havili to start at 15 for Crusaders against Chiefs

David Havili Crusaders Super Rugby TT 2021 - PA.jpg Credit: Alamy
David Havili Crusaders Super Rugby TT 2021 - PA.jpg Credit: Alamy

Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson has named All Blacks inside centre David Havili at full-back for their Super Rugby Pacific opener against the Chiefs in Christchurch on Friday.

With fellow All Black Will Jordan still sidelined with a migraine-related condition, Havili, who played at full-back during the early part of his senior career, will wear the number 15 jersey and he is joined in the back three by wings Leicester Fainga’anuku and Sevu Reece.

The rest of the backline sees Jack Goodhue and Braydon Ennor lining up as the centre combination while Richie Mo’unga and Mitchell Drummond are the half-back pairing.

In the forwards, Scott Barrett captains the team from the second-row and he is joined in the engine room by Mitchell Dunshea with Sam Whitelock sidelined after sustaining a head knock during a pre-season match against the Hurricanes last weekend.

In the back-row, Cullen Grace starts at number eight alongside Tom Christie and Ethan Blackadder while up front veteran All Black loosehead prop Joe Moody returns to Super Rugby Pacific action after missing most of the Crusaders’ victorious 2022 campaign after rupturing an ACL. He packs down in the front-row with Fletcher Newell (tighthead) and Codie Taylor (hooker).

Amongst the replacements, there are potential competitive debuts for Christian Lio-Willie (loose forward) and Macca Springer (outside back).

Robertson is looking forward to the challenge against the Chiefs in their season opener.

“[The Chiefs] have capacity to go deep, they’ve got guys that can create so much. They’re physical, they’re tough. We love playing with them, they love playing with us. There’s a lot of history,” he told the Crusaders‘ official website.

Fully focused

With the Crusaders aiming to defend their title, Robertson is keen for his team to make a solid start to their campaign and said they are focused on the job at hand.

“Making sure we get our connections and combos right for this week,” he added. “Focusing on what’s required, just good energy and getting excited. It’s important we get our best team on.”

Robertson described Havili‘s move to full-back as “what was the best thing for the team”.

“That’s a reflection of him as a player, the quality of skillset and experience he’s got,” he said.

Meanwhile Barrett is looking forward to getting the season underway.

“The boys have put in plenty of work and are excited to get started,” he said. “We’re excited to be home and have the crowd turn out for us.”

Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Scott Barrett (c), 3 Fletcher Newell, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 George Bower, 18 Tamaiti Williams, 19 Zach Gallagher, 20 Christian Lio-Willie, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Fergus Burke, 23 Macca Springer

Date: Friday, February 24
Venue: OrangeTheory Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19:05 local (06:05 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Stu Curran (New Zealand), Jackson Henshaw (New Zealand)
TMO: TBC

READ MORE: Super Rugby Pacific: Tournament organisers unveil law innovations for 2023 campaign

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