Scott Robertson backs Richie Mo'unga and George Bridge to deliver against Blues

Author
Patrick McKendry,
Section
Rugby,
Publish Date
Thursday, 23 May 2019, 4:42PM
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson. (Photo / Getty)
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson. (Photo / Getty)

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has lifted the lid on what he has described as a "whirlwind" last few days for the team and has insisted that Richie Mo'unga and George Bridge - two players at the centre of recent allegations in Cape Town – are in the right frame of mind to start against the Blues on Saturday.

Robertson said he had had several conversations with the pair before deciding to start two of his key backs in the New Zealand derby in Christchurch and that both were determined to play.

Wing Bridge and two unnamed teammates have been accused of making homophobic comments within a McDonald's in Cape Town last weekend, with first-five Mo'unga accused of spitting beer at a woman and pinching a woman's backside in a bar the week before.

All have vehemently denied the accusations, with the Crusaders and New Zealand Rugby appointing independent investigator Steph Dyhrberg to try to ascertain the facts in two controversies which have been seized upon by both social and mainstream media.

"It's been tough in a lot of ways," Robertson said this morning. "It's a different feeling, the scrutiny. We just want to get our side of the story out. One good thing about having this independent inquiry into it now is that we can step back.

"It will only be facts now, which we want to get out - and just to be clear, these are just allegations and there are two sides to the story.

"We've got two great young men in our group – it's been a tough few days for them and their families and we feel it's been for no reason at all and when it becomes clear I think everyone will understand."

Robertson said he would continue checking in with Mo'unga and Bridge to ensure they were confident of delivering to their potential against the Blues and at this stage he was satisfied they would do that.

"I've had a number of conversations with them … firstly that they're okay and then their role in the team and they're really keen to play. There's no reason why they shouldn't play from our point of view. The other process has started and that makes them feel comfortable because they can get their points out and now they can be professional and play rugby."

George Bridge and Richie Mo'unga at Crusaders training. Photo / Photosport

George Bridge and Richie Mo'unga at Crusaders training. (Photo / Photosport)

The Crusaders returned to Christchurch on Monday night and today was their first and only significant training session of the week after their big win against the Bulls in Pretoria and controversial draw against the Stormers in Cape Town.

Robertson said his squad and management team reconnected on Tuesday after a fortnight away and that one of the topics discussed was the need to be constantly vigilant when in the public eye.

"We understand our responsibilities," he said. "We've got a great name, a great brand. We've got great people; we've done a lot of things over the years. These circumstances we've come across, they have been a challenge for us. Probably the first thing to emphasise as a group is how tight we are and how much we care about each other."

Another was "the power of the media and that they can take a story where they want to or need to".

"It's a clear reminder that's for sure that there are a lot of aspects in life where things can happen. You're not sure where they're going to come from so you have to be on the whole time and to understand you're in the spotlight."

Robertson confirmed Sanzaar had told him that television match official Marius Jonker was wrong in disallowing a late try for Sevu Reece at Newlands due what the official alleged was a forward pass from Braydon Ennor. Jonker has not been included in any official duties this week.

No 8 Kieran Read's neck, which he injured in training last week, isn't 100 per cent but he wouldn't have played anyway because of a previously agreed All Black rest week, Robertson said.

Crusaders team to play the Blues at Christchurch Stadium on Saturday, kick-off 7.35pm: 15. David Havili, 14. Sevu Reece, 13. Jack Goodhue, 12. Ryan Crotty, 11. George Bridge, 10. Richie Mo'unga, 9. Bryn Hall, 8. Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7. Matt Todd, 6. Jordan Taufua, 5. Sam Whitelock (c), 4. Scott Barrett, 3. Michael Alaalatoa, 2. Andrew Makalio, 1. Joe Moody.

Reserves: 16. Brodie McAlister, 17. Isi Tuungafasi, 18. George Bower, 19. Luke Romano, 20. Ethan Blackadder, 21. Mitch Drummond, 22. Mitchell Hunt, 23. Braydon Ennor.

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