The BNZ Crusaders will kick their pre-season off with a game against the Queensland Reds this Saturday. A raft of players are set to pull on the BNZ Crusaders strip for the first time, and a new captain will lead the team onto Ballymore Stadium.
Fourth season Crusader Jimmy Tupou will step into the captaincy role for the first time, leading a squad of 28 that includes 8 uncapped Super Rugby players and a further 5 players who are yet to earn a BNZ Crusaders cap.
In the front row, Alex Hodgman will pack down with new squad member Mike Alaalatoa, and Ged Robinson brings a wealth of experience to the hooker role. A hugely experienced pack including Codie Taylor, Ben Funnell and Joe Moody will be waiting on the bench, and young prop Oliver Jager may also get his chance to test himself out at Super Rugby level.
Luke Romano and Scott Barrett pair up at lock, with Sam Whitelock and Mitchell Dunshea providing cover. Tim Boys and Jordan Taufua join Jimmy Tupou in the loose forwards, and Reed Prinsep will be looking for a run off the bench.
Leon Fukofuka will make his debut at halfback, with Mitchell Drummond ready to take the reins from the reserves. Ben Volavola and Richie Mo’unga will both get a chance to play at first five, with Volavola in the starting spot and Mo’unga in the reserves. Marty McKenzie, meanwhile, will bring some useful experience to the fullback position.
The remainder of the backline will be made up of Jone Macilai and the uncapped Sione Fifita on the wings, plus David Havili and debutant Sean Wainui in the midfield. Kieron Fonotia, Mitchell Hunt, Johnny McNicholl and Nemani Nadolo will all be preparing to add some firepower from the bench.
Kick-off is at 10:30pm NZT (7:30pm local time), Saturday 6 February, and the BNZ Crusaders leave for Brisbane on Friday morning.
BNZ Crusaders team to play the Queensland Reds:
Ged Robinson *
Mike Alaalatoa *
Jimmy Tupou (c)
Tim Boys *
Leon Fukofuka **
Ben Volavola *
Sione Fifita **
Sean Wainui **
Marty McKenzie *
Oliver Jager **
Mitchell Dunshea **
Reed Prinsep **
Richie Mo’unga **
Mitchell Hunt **
* indicates no BNZ Crusaders caps
** indicates no Super Rugby caps