There has been a bit of movement in the squad but to be honest, most of it is window dressing. The Crusaders haven’t lost any front-line troops – no key men have moved on and the traffic has flowed on the fringes.
And they have probably come out well on that as taking Tom Sanders from the Chiefs was a smart play and Mike Delany is an experienced, canny operator at No 10. There is also the wildcard factor of having recruited former Irish first-five Ronan O’Gara as an assistant coach.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TACTICALLY?
They are the defending champions so it is unlikely they will have spent the summer overhauling their gameplan. There will be adjustments and tweaks for sure but essentially the Crusaders will use their powerful pack to grind opponents and then look to create space for the likes of Seta Tamanivalu and Israel Dagg to exploit. It worked pretty well for them last year.
GUT FEEL – RISERS OR FALLERS?
As defending champions it may seem like they have only one way to travel – down. But not so. The Crusaders were great last year but we feel they could be better again in 2018.
They will be taking back the rejuvenated Owen Franks, Joe Moody and Dagg and the likes of Codie Taylor, Richie Mo’unga, Jack Goodhue and Tamanivalu will be all the better for their All Blacks experiences.
WHERE WILL THEY FINISH?
These guys are going to be hard to beat anywhere and especially so in Christchurch. They will be right in the mix.