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Super Rugby: Crusaders and Chiefs open the new season

The 2023 Super Rugby Pacific campaign gets underway on Friday with the Crusaders taking on the Chiefs, while the Waratahs entertain the Brumbies.

The wait is finally over for the Rugby Union fans and the opening game should be a cracker as it involves two teams who will have eyes on the Grand Final in 2023.

Indeed it would be no surprise to see these two sides in the big dance come the end of the campaign. But for now it is all about starting the season well and both Crusaders and Chiefs will be keen to get off to a flyer.

Then it is the turn of the Waratahs and Brumbies, with the two Australian sides set to clash at GIO Stadium in Canberra. Saturday sees four games taking place.

Moana Pasifika v Fijian Drua, Highlanders v Blues, Reds v Hurricanes and Force v Rebels. It’s sure to be a cracking weekend of action but first of all let’s take a closer look at Friday night’s double header.

What:Crusaders v Chiefs
Where:Orangetheory Stadium 
When:17:05 (AEST) 24th February 2023
How to watch:Stan Sport
Odds:Crusaders 9/25, Chiefs 11/5 

Crusaders look to dominate again

The Crusaders are priced at 13/10 to win the regular season and will be keen to carry on where they left off last season. They won the last seven games of the 2022 season and went on to win the Grand Final when beating the Blues.

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2023 season – All you need to know

A look at the week ahead

Main contenders to win the Grand Final

The men from Christchurch will be the team to beat once again and they have won six out of the last eight games against the Chiefs. But if anyone can stop them, the Chiefs can. Back in 2017 the Chiefs beat the Crusaders in the opening round and are priced at 11/5 to repeat that effort six years later.

They also look set to challenge for honours this season and can be backed at 15/4 to win the regular season. The Crusaders have named a strong squad for the opener but will be without All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock with a head injury.

Mitchell Dunshea has recovered from a knee injury and will come into replace him. David Havili is also set to switch to fullback with Will Jordan out of the side. The Chiefs are also looking strong heading into the game as their side includes 11 current or recent All Blacks in their squad.

Damien McKenzie returns from a year in Japan and will take the No.10 jersey.

Crusaders: Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Fletcher Newell, Scott Barrettm, Mitchell Dunshea, Ethan Blackadder, Tom Christie, Cullen Grace, Mitchell Drummond, Richie Mo’unga, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Jack Goodhue, Braydon Ennor, Sevu Reece, David Havili.

Replacements: Brodie McAlister, George Bower, Tamaiti Williams, Zach Gallagher, Christian Lio-Willie, Willi Heinz, Fergus Burke, Macca Springer.

Chiefs: Aidan Ross, Samisoni Taukei’aho, George Dyer, Brodie Retallick, Tupou Vaa’i, Pita Gus Sowakula, Sam Cane, Luke Jacobson, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Anton Lienert-Brown, Alex Nankivell, Solomon Alaimalo, Shaun Stevenson.

Replacements: Bradley Slater, Ollie Norris, John Ryan, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Samipeni Finau, Cortez Ratima, Josh Ioane, Rameka Poihipi.

What:Waratahs v Brumbies
Where:Allianz Stadium
When:19:35 (AEST) 24th February 2023
How to watch:Stan Sport
Odds:Waratahs 21/20, Brumbies 39/50

Waratahs must stop the rot

The Waratahs have a poor record against the Brumbies having lost each of the last nine games and have a battle on their hands to avoid number 10. They can however take heart from the fact there has not been much to separate the sides in the last two games. Brumbies are the hot fancies heading into this one but they finished 2022 in poor form, winning just one of their last five games.

It is a fresh start however and they are priced at 39/50 to start with a win. The Waratahs are set to hand a debut to young gun Max Jorgensen but they will be without the injured Dylan Pietsch who is suffering with a quad injury. Tane Edmed is set to play at No.10 meaning Ben Donaldson will play at No.15. The Brumbies will start with three Wallabies on the bench, including James Slipper, who will be joined by Nic White and Noah Lolesio. Cadeyrn Neville and Nick Frost start as the locks with Jack Debreczeni starting in the No.10 jersey.

Waratahs: Angus Bell, David Porecki, Archer Holz, Jed Holloway, Taleni Seu, Lachlan Swinton, Michael Hooper, Charlie Gamble, Jake Gordon, Tane Edmed, Max Jorgensen, Lalakai Foketi, Izaia Perese, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Ben Donaldson. 

Replacements: Mahe Vailanu, Tom Lambert, Te Tera Faulkner, Hugh Sinclair, Langi Gleeson, Will Harris, Harrison Goddard, Nemani Nadolo.

Brumbies: Blake Schoupp, Connal McInerney, Allan Alaalatoa (c), Nick Frost, Cadeyrn Neville, Rob Valetini, Rory Scott, Pete Samu, Ryan Lonergan, Jack Debreczeni, Corey Toole, Tamati Tua, Len Ikitau, Andy Muirhead, Tom Wright.

Replacements: Lachlan Lonergan, James Slipper, Rhys Van Nek, Darcy Swain, Luke Reimer, Nic White, Noah Lolesio, Ollie Sapsford.

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