Crusaders name unchanged team for final

Kieran Read will play in the Super Rugby final for the Crusaders against the Lions. Photo: Getty...
Kieran Read will play in the Super Rugby final for the Crusaders against the Lions. Photo: Getty Images
Scott Robertson has named an unchanged Crusaders match-day squad for the Super Rugby final against the Lions.

All Blacks skipper Kieran Read and prop Owen Franks have been considered good to go after their long flight from Christchurch to Johannesburg.

It means the Crusaders have kept the same 23 throughout the finals phase of the competition.

No8 Read has recovered from a knee injury suffered in the semifinal victory over the Chiefs at AMI Stadium, and Franks has beaten an Achilles problem.

Read, Franks and the rest of the pack will have key roles at Ellis Park early on Sunday morning. It's clear coach Robertson and his assistants are backing their All Blacks' forwards - and there are nine of them in the squad - to take control and limit the Lions' opportunities.

The Lions showed in their come-from-behind victory over the Hurricanes last weekend that they are dangerous when they have momentum, with the Crusaders likely to challenge the home side's set piece and breakdown in order to put the squeeze on their dangerous backline.

The experience of the senior players, many of whom have enjoyed a lot of success at the stadium, which will be packed with 62,000 fans, will also be tapped into.

"There is a heck of a lot of experience in the group of people who have had success here with the Crusaders and with the All Blacks in the cauldron of Ellis Park so to be able to call on that experience and have the world's best No8 and All Blacks captain in the mixer is super for us," said assistant coach Brad Mooar.

Asked how the Crusaders can limit the Lions' driving maul, a major weapon for them as it is with many South African sides, Mooar said: "If we can manage the game properly then ideally we will limit their opportunities to set that platform and then if they do get that we just have to be smart and tough and be very good at defending it - whether that's by challenging the lineout ball or just barring up in the defensive maul side of things. It's something that [forwards coach] Jason [Ryan] and the forwards have been working on to stop that threat."

Lions halfback Ross Cronje and first-five Elton Jantjies enjoy an expansive style but could be stymied if the Crusaders can put in the defensive effort they achieved against the Highlanders and Chiefs.

"They're a quick ruck ball team," Mooar said. "They create those opportunities and look for momentum to attack and if we can reduce their time and space among their inside backs then that's not much fun or any No9 or 10. The challenge is to do it. We have to be fully on the whole time."

Lions v Crusaders
Johannesburg, Sunday, 2am
Crusaders: David Havili, Israel Dagg, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Seta Tamanivalu, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock (c), Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody.
Reserves: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, George Bridge.

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