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'A real bummer': Crusaders suffer huge Halfpenny blow

NEWS: British and Irish Lions fullback Leigh Halfpenny is expected to miss most of the Super Rugby season with a chest injury, the Crusaders said on Thursday.

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Halfpenny damaged a pectoral muscle during his debut for the Super Rugby champions in a 19-21 defeat to Ireland’s Munster on the New Zealand side’s pre-season tour.

Halfpenny needs surgery and will be sidelined for the next three to four months, the Crusaders said.

“It is a real bummer for him,” Crusaders’ assistant coach Tamati Ellison told reporters via a video call from England.

“He will still help, even during his rehab period around some of the kicking and the game-driving for a few of our younger boys. He has been great there already.”

The Crusaders kick-off the defence of their Super Rugby Pacific title at the Chiefs on February 23. The Final is in June.

The Christchurch-based side hope Halfpenny will be involved in the later rounds of the season. “We’re expecting him to play, if the rehab goes well,” Ellison said.

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Halfpenny, 35, joined the Crusaders late last year after retiring from international rugby.

He made 101 appearances for Wales and won four caps for the British and Irish Lions.

Meanwhile, the Crusaders have named their squad to take on the Bristol Bears this weekend in their last game of the Northern Tour.

Willi Heinz will lead the team out at Ashton Gate Stadium where more than 20,000 spectators wait for the spectacle.

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Rob Penney and his coaching group are taking the usual opportunities of a pre-season and making 10 changes to the starting XV.

Kershawl Sykes-Martin and Seb Calder join George Bell in the front row with Quinten Strange (vice-captain), Jamie Hannah, Dominic Gardiner, Corey Kellow and Christian Lio-Willie rounding out the forward pack.

Willi Heinz starts at scrumhalf with Rivez Reihana donning the No.10 jersey. Macca Springer takes the left wing and Manasa Mataele takes the right.

Ryan Crotty and Jone Rova occupy the centre mixing fresh talent with a seasoned pro. Chay Fihaki provides structure at fullback.

A further 10 players are set to make an impact off the bench, including the likes of Ioane Moananu and George Bower, Noah Hotham and Taka Kemara.

Crusaders: 15 Chay Fihaki, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Jone Rova, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Macca Springer, 10 Rivez Reihana, 9 Willi Heinz (captain), 8 Christian Lio-Willie, 7 Corey Kellow, 6 Dominic Gardiner, 5 Jamie Hannah, 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Seb Calder, 2 George Bell, 1 Kershawl Sykes-Martin.
Replacements: 16 Ioane Moananu, 17 George Bower, 18 Ryan Coxon, 19 Antonio Shalfoon, 20 Fletcher Anderson, 21 Noah Hotham, 22 Taha Kemara, 23 Levi Aumua, 24 Taine Robinson, 25 Jack Gray, 26 Gus Brown.

Date: Friday, February 9
Venue: Ashton Gate Stadium, Bristol
Kick-off: 19.30 (19.30 GMT; 08.30 Saturday, February 11 NZ time)

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