Crusaders' back depth to be tested against Reds

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Captain and All Blacks lock Scott Barrett returns from a knee injury to lead the side, the only change to the forward pack that beat the Highlanders in their last outing.

Halfback Ereatara Enari will start at halfback for the first time this season while Leicester Faingaanuku will start on the left-wing.

Resting centre Braydon Ennor allowed Dallas McLeod to make his debut at second five-eighths with Jack Goodhue returning to centre.

"He's a big kid, he could do the job at loose forward," Robertson (pictured) said of McLeod.

"He's a good young kid, he had a great pre-season, he worked really hard and deserves a shot. He's physical, big in stature with a great skill set. He's come through our academy and worked really hard and it's a great way for him to start," he said.

Wing Sevu Reece would have the job of covering the midfield in the event of injury.

Fullback David Havili had been rested to allow more time to recover from a slight injury and also the high minutes involved in the campaign to date. George Bridge has moved to fullback.

"The balance, and rotation in the squad, is perfect for us," he said.

Wing Manasa Mataele is on the bench after recovering from a knee injury. The squad had welcomed his recall after seeing how much work he had put in on his recovery. His injury had been devastating when suffered as he had been in incredible form, Robertson said.

"Now he's got the chance to show some impact some time in the game," he said.

Robertson said there was no doubt there was an edge with the Reds forward pack and their physicality. He was also well aware of the qualities Reds coach and former All Black and Crusader Brad Thorn would be demanding of his side.

"I know they'll be disappointed with the opportunities they let slide at the weekend. They were in it and fought really hard. They've had a tough start with the travel they've had and the draw so the edge is there and we're well aware he [Thorn] always gets them up for big games," he said.

Thorn's mindset as a player was something that was well known and was something he was trying to develop with his players, Robertson said.

Crusaders team to play the Reds:

1. Joe Moody 2. Codie Taylor (VC) 3. Michael Alaalatoa 4. Scott Barrett (C) 5. Mitchell Dunshea 6. Cullen Grace 7. Tom Christie 8. Tom Sanders 9. Ereatara Enari 10. Richie Mo'unga 11. Leicester Faingaanuku 12. Dallas McLeod* 13. Jack Goodhue (VC) 14. Sevu Reece 15. George Bridge

Replacements: 16. Brodie McAlister 17. George Bower 18. Oliver Jager 19. Luke Romano 20. Sione Havili 21. Mitchell Drummond 22. Brett Cameron 23. Manasa Mataele


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