Preview: Brumbies v Crusaders

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Friday, May 3, 2013    Getty Images

LAST TIME: Crusaders 52 def Brumbies 10, Round 4, 2011 at Nelson.

The Brumbies are as close to full strength as any franchise could hope to be at this stage of the campaign.

The Crusaders have rushed Dan Carter straight back into the starting side at flyhalf after overcoming a hamstring injury. Carter's return sees Tom Taylor shift to full-back at the expense of All Blacks full-back Israel Dagg who has been dumped to the bench. Ryan Crotty and Robbie Fruean will form a new centre combination while scrumhalf Andy Ellis also returns to the starting side.

The Brumbies decimated the Force 41-7 in Canberra last start to hold onto top spot on both the Australian Conference and overall ladder. Jake White's men scored six-tries-to-one in a complete performance against a Force side that had previously been competitive in every match this season. It was an emphatic return to form for the Brumbies who had managed two draws, against the Reds and Kings and a narrow victory over the Highlanders in their three previous matches.

The Crusaders got out of jail against the Rebels as Tom Taylor nailed three late penalties to post an unconvincing 30-26 victory over the struggling Rebels. Todd Blackadder's men conceded three-tries-to-two and were lucky to get away with the four competition points. Consistency has been a problem for the Crusaders this season but they are still in the finals mix in third spot in the New Zealand conference and seventh overall.

WE THINK: Current form and recent history against the Crusaders in Canberra favours the Brumbies, but it's never a comfortable feeling tipping against the men from Christchurch. The Brumbies haven't lost to the Crusaders at Canberra Stadium since 2003, winning their last four encounters against the seven-time champions, including the 2004 Super 12 final. We expect both teams to feature in this year's playoffs and there won't be much in Sunday's encounter, but we'll stick with the Brumbies on their home patch. Brumbies by seven