NZ Rugby World
A MIDFIELD MINEFIELD
Midfield. Braydon Ennor’s knee injury suffered in the North versus South match in Wellington last year left Jack Goodhue as the only specialist midfielder in the squad until Robertson signed Rene Ranger as cover.
Ranger, the former Blues and All Blacks midfielder back from stints in France, Japan and the United States, is 34 and his best days are behind him, but he may thrive at the Crusaders.
The smart money, though, is that Robertson will select David Havili in the midfield alongside Jack Goodhue, leaving Will Jordan, who announced himself on the world stage with a brilliant cameo for the All Blacks against Argentina in Australia last year, to play fullback. All Blacks wing George Bridge will be sidelined for the early part of Super Rugby Aotearoa due to a chest injury, with fellow wing Manasa Mataele recovering from a similar complaint.
Leicester Fainga’anuku and newcomers Isaiah Punivai and Chay Fihaki are promising outside back options.
The Crusaders have very few other weaknesses, although a quality back-up to Richie Mo’unga may be one. The 22-cap All Black has it all - last year during Super Rugby showed he deserves to be considered among the top 10s in the world, but the Crusaders look a far lesser team without him on the park.