Brumbies coach wary of bruised Crusaders - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Brumbies coach wary of bruised Crusaders

By Karlis Salna 19/02/2009 04:14:27 PM Comments (0)

Beware the wounded beast - it's a point Brumbies coach Andy Friend is very mindful of as his side prepares to face Super 14 champions the Crusaders in Canberra on Saturday night.

The challenge facing the Brumbies' in their first home game of the season became somewhat less daunting on Thursday with key All Blacks Richie McCaw (head knock), Brad Thorn (heel) and Leon MacDonald (shoulder) all ruled out of the Crusaders team with injuries.

But as far as Friend is concerned, it changes nothing.

While the absence of All Blacks captain McCaw in particular, with his talent for pilfering the ball, will see the Crusaders lose some sting at the breakdown against Wallaby star George Smith and his cohorts, Friend said the Brumbies will be taking nothing for granted.

"The key thing with the Crusaders is they play a certain game style, it doesn't matter who's wearing jerseys one to 15, that game style still comes through," Friend said on Thursday.

And winning the contest at the breakdown, as always, will be crucial, he said.

"That's the game. You've got to make sure you're winning that battle. I'm convinced that if our boys win that battle we'll go very well."

"We know that they'll put a lot of pressure on us and look for us to make errors, so we've got to be good at our game, make sure we're patient and control our game."

Another key battle looms in the midfield with both sides fielding a quality centre pairing.

The Brumbies combination of Stirling Mortlock, who has relished a move closer to the ruck at inside centre, and Adam Ashley-Cooper on his outside paid dividends last week with the pair scoring three tries between them in the nail-biting 33-31 win over the Highlanders.

The Crusaders pairing of Casey Laulala and Tim Bateman displayed a similar degree of potency, also crossing for a combined three tries in their side's 19-13 win over the Chiefs.

"I thought Laulala was fantastic last week, but if I look at our No.13 (Ashley-Cooper), I thought he was pretty special too, so that will be a great contest," Friend said.

He also issued a warning to Bateman, who at 91kg, gives more than 10kg away to Mortlock at inside centre.

"The two No 12s are very different, Bateman's a stepper while we've got Stirling who tends to run over the top of steppers, so it should be a good one to watch."

Ashley-Cooper is also looking forward to the mid-field battle.

"It will be a good indication of where me and Stirlo are at personally," he said.

The clash with the Crusaders will also be a good test for the rest of the Brumbies and the loss of three key opposing players matters little, he said.

"We're approaching it as if they're the best rugby team in the competition."

The Crusaders are regarded as the best team in the competition - and for good reason, they've won the title seven times - but the odds for this weekend's match are firmly in the Brumbies' favour.

The Brumbies have only lost 17 of their 82 Super rugby matches at home and have beaten the Crusaders five times in eight meetings at Canberra Stadium.

And with the loss of McCaw and Co, the odds have also shortened with bookmakers. SportsBet was paying $1.90 for a Brumbies win on Wednesday night, with the price shortening to $1.65 by 2pm (AEDT) on Thursday.

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