JUST IN : Richie Mo’unga’s replacement revealed as All Blacks wing returns for Crusaders after 11-month absence

Former Chiefs’ fly-half Rivez Reihana will receive his first chance to grab Richie Mo’unga’s Crusaders shirt after being selected for Friday’s Super Rugby Pacific opener.

In a rematch of the 2023 final, Reihana makes his debut for the Christchurch club against his former team in Rob Penney’s first game in command.

Penney succeeds Scott Robertson, who has taken over as All Blacks coach and has faced a number of player exits.
This includes Mo’unga, whom the Crusaders are currently looking for as a long-term successor. Reihana is given the opportunity to take that post over Taha Kemara, who is quite talented.

He partners Mitchell Drummond at half-back and they will hope to bring the likes of Dallas McLeod and new signing Levi Aumua into the game.


They combine at centre while on the wing Sevu Reece makes his return after missing most of the 2023 season due to injury.
Reece was absent from the Rugby World Cup after rupturing his ACL, but he is back in the Crusaders XV after 11 months on the sidelines. The 27-year-old is partnered by Chay Fihaki and Macca Springer in the back three.

Up front, the team is captained by New Zealand lock Scott Barrett and he is probably the most experienced player in the pack.

He is alongside Quinten Strange in the second-row while behind them are loose trio Cullen Grace, Tom Christie and Dominic Gardner, who will all hope to push for Test call-ups this year.

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Tamaiti Williams, the breakthrough star of 2023, is at tighthead, flanked by George Bell and injury returnee George Bower.

Ex-All Blacks Joe Moody, Owen Franks, and Ryan Crotty provide experience on the bench, while youthful players Jamie Hannah, Noah Hotham, and Kemara want to make their impact in Super Rugby in 2024.

“The Chiefs are touting it as a bit of a grudge match, a rematch of the final – we’re not going there with that mentality,” Penney, the team’s head coach, stated.

“This is a new season, a new group, and it’s an opportunity for this team to test themselves and see where they’re at, and there’s no better way to do that than Hamilton on a Friday night Round 1.”
The Crusaders will face the Chiefs with the following lineup: 15 Chay Fihaki, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Macca Springer, 10 Rivez Reihana, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Dominic Gardiner, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett (c), 3 Tamaiti Williams, 2 George Bell, and 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Joe Moody, and 18 Owen Franks 19 Jamie Hannah, 20 Christian Lio-Willie, 21 Noah Hotham, 22 Taha Kemara, and 23 Ryan Crotty.

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