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'There is no reason that they shouldn't play' - Crusaders coach backs under-fire Richie Mo'unga, George Bridge

The Crusaders checked with embattled stars Richie Mo'unga and George Bridge before naming them in their starting team to face the Blues in a Kiwi Super Rugby derby this weekend.

Both All Blacks backs are the subject of independent investigations following allegations of offensive behaviour while the team were in South Africa earlier this month.

Five-eighth Mo'unga is alleged to have spat beer towards a group at a bar in Pretoria while fullback Bridge was in a group accused of homophobic and intimidating behaviour towards at least two gay men at a fast food restaurant in Cape Town.

New Zealand Rugby's independent complaints division is chasing further information from South Africa and seeking co-operation from Crusaders management and players.

The negativity surrounding the pair prompted Crusaders coach Scott Robertson to inquire if they were in the right mental state for Saturday's game in Christchurch.

"I have had a number of conversations with them and looked them in the eye," Robertson told journalists.

"Firstly, from a personal point of view, are they OK? Then I talked to them about their role in the team and they're really keen to play.

"There is no reason that they shouldn't play, from our point of view. And now the process has started in the investigation, it makes them feel comfortable because they can get their point of view out, now they can go and be professional and play rugby."

Team management said the players have rejected the accusations.

The controversy threatens to scupper the progress of the two-time defending champions who are nine points clear of the field.

They also received bad news on the injury front, with Test hooker Codie Taylor expected to be sidelined for about a month by a fractured finger suffered in last week's 19-19 draw with the Stormers.

All Blacks skipper Kieran Read, who has been battling a shoulder problem, has been rested.

Crusaders: David Havili, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Michael Alaalatoa, Andrew Makalio, Joe Moody.

Reserves: Brodie McAlister, Isi Tu'ungafasi, George Bower, Luke Romano, Ethan Blackadder, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Braydon Ennor.

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Kieran Read is still side-lined due to a neck issue and was also due an All Blacks break. Source: 1 NEWS


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