Matt Todd returns from injury for Crusaders, Mitchell Hunt to start at No.10



ToddThe Crusaders will look to the “clutch” Mitch Hunt to steer the ship from first-five against the Hurricanes on Saturday.

With Richie Mo’unga set for a long convalescence after breaking his jaw in last week’s win over the Stormers, Hunt has been promoted to the hot seat.

He’ll guide the Crusaders around the park in Wellington, in what is likely to be one of the games of the Super Rugby season to date.

Veteran Mike Delany moves onto the bench.

Head coach Scott Robertson was effusive in his praise of Hunt, who famously notched a last-second long-range field goal against the Highlanders in 2017.

The drop goal – which helped the Crusaders win 25-22 – later won a Halberg award for New Zealand’s sporting moment of the year.

“Mitch came in (last week) and did a great job – as we know he’s been clutch many times and we’ve also got Mike Delany on the bench for this reason, coming in with a bit of experience,” Robertson told reporters.

“He’s really calm, really clear, got a good manner and deals with pressure.”

Elsewhere, Matt Todd has made a surprise early return from a broken thumb, with his surgeon giving the green light for a return to play.

Robertson said the thumb – broken in the Crusaders’ first-up win over the Chiefs – was still broken but not causing Todd major distress.

He’ll wear a guard to prevent further damage.

“The surgeon was happy enough for him – if he could function well, (playing) wouldn’t make it any worse,” Robertson said.

However flanker Pete Samu will be out for a fortnight with a shoulder issue, while a phalanx of All Blacks regulars – including Kieran Read, Israel Dagg and props Joe Moody and Owen Franks – remain on the sidelines.

Heiden Bedwell-Curtis takes Samu’s place in the run-on side, while Todd’s return sees Billy Harmon move to the bench.

CRUSADERS: David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Mitch Hunt, Bryn Hall, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Sam Whitelock (c), Scott Barrett, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett.

RESERVES: Ben Funnell, Chris King, Oliver Jager, Luke Romano, Billy Harmon, Mitch Drummond, Mike Delany, Manasa Mataele.

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