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All Black joins casualty list as Crusaders problems mount

NEWS: All Blacks lock Scott Barrett is expected to miss the next six weeks with a fractured finger, the Crusaders said Wednesday, adding to the woes of the winless Super Rugby champions.

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Centre David Havili will captain the Crusaders in Barrett’s absence, starting with Friday’s crunch home match against current leaders the Wellington Hurricanes.

Defending champions the Crusaders will be desperate to snap a three-match losing streak, their worst start to a Super Rugby season since the competition began in 1996. The Hurricanes have won their three games so far.

Underpressure Crusaders head coach Rob Penney said that his skipper would be “sadly missed”.

“His on-field performances are world-class every week,” said Penney.

“We have other young men who are hungry for a chance. This is their opportunity.”

With Barrett out, the 22-year-old Zach Gallagher returns from injury to lock the Crusaders scrum.

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Former Hurricanes flyhalf Riley Hohepa, 29, will make only his second appearance for the Crusaders when he plays against his former team.

Barrett joins All Blacks team-mate Will Jordan (shoulder) and British & Irish Lions fullback Leigh Halfpenny (chest muscle) who are also sidelined for the Crusaders.

After three defeats on the road, the Christchurch-based team finally have a home match and welcome the chance to play in front of their own crowd.

Penney said the mood within the squad “is really positive, but 3-0 – that’s not pretty”.

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He replaced Scott Robertson, who left last year to coach the All Blacks after winning seven straight Super Rugby titles in charge of the Crusaders.

The Hurricanes have not beaten the Crusaders in Christchurch since 2020.

The visitors’ head coach Clark Laidlaw knows his side can expect a tough time with the Crusaders eager to snap their horror start to the season.

“We’re under no illusions what the Crusaders can do. We know what’s coming and how tough it’s going to be,” said Laidlaw.

The Hurricanes named an unchanged backline from the team which beat the Auckland Blues 29-21 in Wellington last weekend when home wing Josh Moorby bagged two tries.

In the forwards, loosehead prop Xavier Numia joins the starting lineup alongside hooker Asafo Aumua and tight-head prop Tyrel Lomax. Loose forward Devan Flanders returns after an injury layoff.

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