The BNZ Crusaders will contest the 2016 Investec Super Rugby competition with a squad strong in experience but also brimming with new talent.  Eleven players join the squad for the first time in 2016, and a further four players have been promoted from the 2015 Wider Training Group.

Prop Michael Alaalatoa and loose forwards Pete Samu and Tim Boys will bolster the forwards in 2016.  They each join the squad off the back of impressive ITM Cup campaigns, Alaalatoa for Manawatu, Samu for Tasman and Boys for Southland.

“These are three players who will add some significant strength to our squad.  They have more than proven themselves at provincial level and we believe that they are ready to make the step up to Super Rugby,” Head Coach Todd Blackadder said.

Also stepping up in the forwards are prop Alex Hodgman, who has been promoted from the 2015 Wider Training Group and lock Mitchell Dunshea, who has been named in the 2016 Wider Training Group after having an outstanding debut season for Canterbury. 

The Crusaders will have a new look backline in 2016, with seven new backs added to the group.  The first five spot will be contested by Richie Mo’unga, who has been promoted from the 2015 Wider Training Group, Fijian international Ben Volavola who has moved from the Waratahs, and Marty McKenzie who shifts from the Chiefs. 

“We have been watching these men closely over the Rugby World Cup and ITM Cup campaigns and we are excited with the potential we see in all of them. There is a real opportunity for these guys to step up and fill some very big boots and we are confident that they will grasp that opportunity in 2016,” Blackadder said.

Tasman midfielder David Havili is another player who has earned the call up to the full squad from last season’s Wider Training Group, while halfback Leon Fukofuka will move down from Auckland to take a spot in the Wider Training Group for next year.

There are a few new faces in the outside backs for next season.  Sione Fifita joins the BNZ Crusaders from the Counties Manukau Steelers; NZ Under 20s player Mitchell Hunt moves down from Nelson, and Maori All Black Sean Wainui makes the shift from Taranaki.

“We have put a real focus on building more strength and power in our back line for 2016 and that’s where these signings have come from.  We are hugely excited about the potential that we see in these players and about the overall profile of next year’s squad with the addition of these talented young backs,” Blackadder said.

Four players are currently listed as Medical Exemptions because they have long term injuries; they are Tim Perry, Jed Brown, Jack Goodhue and Israel Dagg.  They are listed in the Wider Training Group and their contract place is taken by another player to meet the required squad of 32. All Wider Training Group players can be selected as full squad members.

“Having these long-term injuries has made the contracting process a little more complicated this year, but it has also opened up fantastic opportunities for some other players.  The four players who are currently injured are all incredibly valuable to us and we know that they will make a big impact when they return to fitness.

“In addition, we have a number of players who will join the Crusaders from the beginning of our pre-season training and these players will become available to us if any further injuries rule players out. They are Reed Prinsep, Oliver Jager, George Bridge, Jack Stratton and Hamish Dalzell. This is a great group of men who we are lucky to have with the group, and who we know will take their opportunities if they get them,” Blackadder said.

Blackadder said he is thrilled with the squad the BNZ Crusaders have selected for 2016 and excited to have a number of young, new players in the mix.

“We believe that we have got the mix right, with some experienced, reliable and strong players up front, plus some big, powerful and fast players in the backline. I can’t wait to work with this group and create some exciting rugby in 2016.”

2016 BNZ Crusaders Squad:

Wyatt Crockett

Joe Moody

Alex Hodgman

Michael Alaalatoa

Owen Franks

Ben Funnell

Codie Taylor

Ged Robinson

Luke Romano

Sam Whitelock

Jimmy Tupou

Scott Barrett

Pete Samu

Jordan Taufua

Tim Boys

Matt Todd

Kieran Read

Andy Ellis

Mitchell Drummond

Ben Volavola

Richie Mo’unga

Marty Mckenzie

David Havili

Kieron Fonotia

Ryan Crotty

Robbie Fruean

Nemani Nadolo

Jone Macilai

Sione Fifita

Johnny McNicholl

Sean Wainui

Mitchell Hunt

Tim Perry (Medical Exemption)

Jed Brown  (Medical Exemption)

Jack Goodhue  (Medical Exemption)

Israel Dagg  (Medical Exemption)

Leon Fukofuka (WTG)

Mitchell Dunshea (WTG)

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