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Crusaders' rookie pivot relishing start

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 2/03/2017

Tasman utility Mitchell Hunt is excited about the prospect of going up against Lima Sopoaga in the Crusaders South Island derby with the Highlanders in Dunedin.

Hunt will make his first Super Rugby start for the red and blacks in place of the injured Richie Mo'unga at first-five eighth and he says the playmaker has given him plenty of support heading into the blockbuster clash.

"It's an exciting opportunity," said Hunt.

"You've got Aaron Smith at nine, Lima at 10 and (Malakai) Fekitoa in the midfield there so they are pretty stacked with All Blacks so it's a real opportunity to test myself against the best.

"Obviously it sucks for Richie to get injured in the first game of the season but he is back in today getting around the boys.

"He gave me a good encouragement text for this weekend so it's exciting."

Hunt played and trained at fullback throughout a challenging 2016 season but he is looking forward to playing in a position he grew up playing in.

"It was a long season last year watching and training from the sideline. I got a little frustrated knowing there are other players in front of you but (this) is a fantastic opportunity to jump out on the field and gain some valuable minutes.

"Last year I was predominantly at fullback so I will be looking to bring more of a leadership role in the 10 position bringing more voice and leading the older guys."

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson is giving his new playmaker the tick of approval.

"He (Hunt) is tough and will suit the way we want to play," said Robertson.

"He is a bubbly little man by nature and he played well in last year's Mitre 10 (Cup) so he is up for the challenge and deserves his opportunity.

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