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PREVIEW: Reds v Crusaders

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Friday, March 10, 2017    allblacks.com    Getty Images

ROUND 3: Reds v Crusaders, 9.45pm Saturday 11 March, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

TALE OF THE TAPE
The Crusaders have scrapped to two hard fought wins in the opening rounds. After outlasting the Brumbies 17-13 at home, they staged a remarkable fightback to topple the Highlanders 30-27 last week. The Reds started with a win over the highly regarded Sharks before succumbing to the Western Force in Perth. Recent history is with the Crusaders, having won the last four meetings between the sides by more than 28 points. 

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NITRO NABULI
Although the Reds fell short against the Force 26-19 last week, one positive was the form of left wing Eto Nabuli. The former NRL flyer crossed for three tries and proved hard to stop throughout the match. Blessed with quick speed from the mark and standing at 197cm tall and weighing 105kgs, Nabuli is an impressive physical specimen. His clash with the Crusaders wing Seta Tamanivalu is sure to contain plenty of fireworks.

DIGBY’S HOMECOMING

Former Reds star Digby Ioane will make his Crusaders Super Rugby debut against his old side. Selected on the right wing, Ioane will be straight into the thick of things against a side that he was capped 66 times for. Although he has been away from Super Rugby for four seasons, the 31-year-old appears to have lost none of his trademark speed and evasive ball-running. Although the Brisbane-crowd is surely going to be against him, Ioane could return a cult-hero to Christchurch with am impressive debut display for his new side.

RAZOR RINGS THE CHANGES

Despite winning their first two clashes, coach Scott Robertson has mixed up his side with seven positional changes. Among the changes include the switching of Israel Dagg from the wing to fullback to allow for Digby Ioane’s inclusion in the run-on side. Mitchell Hunt has also been retained at first five-eighth following a solid showing against the Highlanders last week. Scott Robertson said: "Mitch Hunt fronted-up, he kicked the pressure points, was composed and led us round."

FAST FACT
The Reds defeated the Crusaders in the 2011 Super Rugby final.

TEAMS
Reds: 1. James Slipper (C) 2. Stephen Moore 3. Sam Talakai 4. Rob Simmons 5. Izack Rodda 6. Hendrik Tui 7. George Smith 8. Scott Higginbotham 9. Nick Frisby 10. Quade Cooper 11. Eto Nabuli
12. Duncan Paia’aua 13. Samu Kerevi 14. Izaia Perese 15. Karmichael Hunt
Reserves: 16. Andrew Ready 17. Sef Fa’agase 18. Taniela Tupou 19. Kane Douglas 20. Adam Korczyk 21. James Tuttle 22. Jake McIntyre 23. Chris Kuridrani

Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Digby Ioane, Mitchell Hunt, Mitchell Drummond, Whetu Douglas, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Pete Samu, Sam Whitelock (c) Scott Barrett, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Tim Perry, Oliver Jager, Luke Romano, Jordan Taufua, Bryn Hall, Marty McKenzie, George Bridge