Crosswell ready to bash old mates as Rennie freshens up the troops
Nick Crosswell could be the fourth different No8 fielded by the Chiefs on Friday night, but it's not a position he's played a lot in recent seasons.
With Ross Filipo being tried last week against the Kings, following the use of both Fritz Lee and Liam Messam in the boot of the scrum previously, his knee injury half an hour into the match means another change is needed although Filipo will now be back later in the season.
Manawatu's Crosswell - a 31-cap Super Rugby veteran - has pushed hard for a spot and despite blindside flanker being his more accustomed position he has worked hard with the coaches since joining the Chiefs to improve his No8 skills.
''Crossie was probably unlucky to miss out last week and other than a yellow card against the Stormers he was pretty effective for us off the bench [the week before],'' Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie said.
''He's going really well so he's a chance but obviously we've still got Fritz and we could play Liam there again so we've got quite a bit of flexibility around our loosies.''
If Crosswell does get the nod it will be a timely appearance for him against the Highlanders - his Super Rugby team for the past two seasons.
''After being down there a couple of years I've got a lot of good mates down there and [coach] Jamie Joseph is a bloody good bugger,'' Crosswell said.
''I'll love getting stuck into them and I'm sure once we're out there then there'll be no matey-matey stuff and there will be some hard bits with people getting hit.''
Crosswell had a setback in pre-season when an infected knee meant he missed the first game against the Highlanders at Taupo and he's battled to get game time since - eight minutes against the Stormers before being sin-binned the only competition play so far with he got half games in the other two pre-season matches.
''I haven't played too much rugby but I've put a lot of work in off-field in the strength and conditioning side of things so I'm more than confident that if I do get an opportunity that the lungs will hold out.''
Meanwhile a scan on Filipo's knee has shown his injury to be a damaged medial cruciate ligament and not the more serious anterior cruciate ligament, meaning it is not season-ending and he will likely see some action later in the season.
Expect further changes to the starting XV when it is named for the Highlanders match today. It is a formula that has worked successfully for the Chiefs for a season and a bit now, freshening up a few players each week and bringing others in who are fresh and eager to make an impact.
''It's such a brutal competition so to be able to freshen guys up a little bit [in the forwards] helps,'' Rennie said.
''We haven't had the same luxury in the backs but that's coming with those guys almost back now, but it's horses for courses and we've got a bye in a couple of weeks' time and we've got a couple of games before that.''
There are plenty of options this week with prop Ben Tameifuna available after having to leave the South African tour last week for a family bereavement, lock Brodie Retallick and flanker Sam Cane ready to return to the run-on XV after getting some rest on the bench last week and Richard Kahui, Robbie Robinson and Brendon Leonard all back from injury and likely to be available.
Rennie said Kahui, Robinson and Leonard were all a chance to play after working particularly hard back in Hamilton while the team was in South Africa over the last fortnight.
''They all need some footy now and I guess it's just who they have that footy with. Whether it's straight in with us or with the development side on Saturday [against Tonga A].
''It's pretty good from our point of view if we can get those guys back involved quickly. They're desperate to make an impression and that would be good for our group,'' he said.
Hooker Mahonri Schwalger, who also came home early from South Africa, had a further scan on his troublesome knee cartilage yesterday with results expected today, but he is unlikely to be available this week.
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