Scott Robertson request sees ‘versatile’ All Black named in surprise position for Crusaders

Dylan Coetzee
Split with All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson and Crusaders David Havili.

Split with All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson and Crusaders David Havili.

All Blacks head coach and former Crusaders boss Scott Robertson has influenced the selection of the Christchurch side by requesting David Havili to be named in the number 10 shirt to face the Reds.

Robertson’s time at the helm of the Crusaders was highly successful with seven Super Rugby titles to his name but the club’s fortunes have changed since his departure. It has been the worst start to a season in Crusaders’ history as the team not only deals with Robertson departure but also that of key players such as Richie Mo’unga.

Solving problems

The playmaker was a key part of Robertson’s success at the club and new coach Rob Penney has been short of a fly-half of that quality at the club. However, Havili may just be the solution.

Typically playing first centre, Havili was Mo’unga’s right-hand man operating as a ball playing midfielder and in some ways, an extra fly-half which likely prompted Robertson’s thought process. The All Blacks boss is also exploring his options at 10 due to Mo’unga’s ineligibility for selection as he now plays in Japan.

Penney revealed that the coaching group had already considered deploying Havili at fly-half so when Robertson’s request came in it was an easy decision.

“We’ve talked about it often as a coaching group but it wasn’t until the All Blacks confirmed that they were really interested to see him playing there that there was a shift… to go that way,” Penney said.

“They have said if we can fit David in there (at first five) they would be really appreciative,” he added.

“I think (the All Blacks) are very excited about having David Havilli in the mix, being able to play 10,12, 13 really effectively and 15 if required – he’s such a versatile player – it makes an international bench really exciting.

“There’s lots of positives for the New Zealand game, it’s also really positive for David and positive for us.”

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Timely injury return

Another contributing factor to the poor season thus far for the Crusaders has been the injuries with important signing Leigh Halfpenny being crocked in pre-season.

The Welsh Test centurion has made his return and will run out for his debut after being named at full-back against the Reds.

“We can manage his game time and work load more effectively (by starting him) and he’s been training the house down for the last six weeks and he’s earned the right to slip into that 15 jersey.”

The Crusaders showed off their class in their last outing with a 39-0 win over the Rebels and will be desperate to back it up against the Reds this weekend.

The match day squad

Crusaders: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Sevu Reece, 10 David Havili, 9 Mitch Drummond, 8 Christian Lio-Willie, 7 Ethan Blackadder, 6 Cullen Grace, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett (c), 3 Fletcher Newell, 2 Brodie McAlister, 1 George Bower
Replacements: 16 George Bell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Jamie Hannah, 20 Corey Kellow, 21 Noah Hotham, 22 Rivez Reihana, 23 Chay Fihaki

Date: Saturday, May 4
Venue: Apollo Projects Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 16:35 local (05:35 GMT)
Referee: Jordan Way
Assistant Referees: Damon Murphy, Jeremy Markey
TMO: Tbc

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