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Crusaders expect Lions muscle over magic

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 8/06/2017 Daniel Gilhooly

Mitchell Hunt of the Crusaders is congratulated by team mates after kicking the last minute winner during the round 15 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Highlanders at AMI Stadium on June 3, 2017 in Christchurch, New Zealand © Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images Mitchell Hunt of the Crusaders is congratulated by team mates after kicking the last minute winner during the round 15 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Highlanders at AMI Stadium on June 3, 2017 in Christchurch, New Zealand When the pressure goes on the British and Irish Lions they revert to type - and it's not a pretty sight.

That's the summation of Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, who expects nothing but a slugfest when his Super Rugby leaders host the under-pressure tourists in Christchurch on Saturday.

He's confident his team have the muscle to cope with it.

Robertson was an interested observer when the fifth-ranked New Zealand Super Rugby franchise, the Blues, snuck past the Lions 22-16 in Auckland on Wednesday.

It was apparent at Eden Park, he said, that Warren Gatland's team had a default setting when the game was in the balance.

"Probably the tighter the game went, and the more pressure that was put on, you could see what they go to - their set piece and their physicality," Robertson said.

"We don't think their style will change too much but we think the stakes might have gone up a little bit after Wednesday night's efforts and what it means to them."

Robertson predicted Ireland's Connor Murray and Englishman Owen Farrell would be in the Lions halves hours before it was named.

He subsequently expects a busy evening for All Blacks veteran Israel Dagg.

"Connor Murray is probably one of the best box kickers in the world and then you've got Owen Farrell, who can kick a ball a mile.

"Between the 9 and 10, they'll have a pretty accomplished kicking."

The Crusaders tight five is comprised entirely of All Blacks squad members, providing a fascinating prelude to the first Test in Auckland in two weeks.

While the red and blacks have employed some sizzling rugby on their way to a 14-from-14 record, it was the gutsy defeat of the Hurricanes in slippery conditions last month which has Robertson upbeat.

The Hurricanes' proven attack was rendered impotent by a dominant Crusaders scrum and a quality kicking game.

Robertson is also tipping a strong game from another member of his pack, Matt Todd, after the industrious flanker was left out of the All Blacks squad.

So often an unlucky omission, Robertson felt for a player who couldn't tip Sam Cane and Ardie Savea out of the Test mix.

"I don't think he can have played any better. Anyone who knows anything about rugby, he's a world class seven," Robertson.

"He'd definitely play for any team in the world, the way he's played for us."

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