Whitelock wants focus on Muslim community now instead of Crusaders name change

Ben Smith Ardie Savea and Anton Lienert Brown are among the players fronting the Head First campaign

NZ RUGBYBen Smith Ardie Savea and Anton Lienert Brown are among the players fronting the Head First campaign

The name Crusaders is associated with wars waged by Christians against Muslims in the Middle East in the 11th to 13th centuries.

New Zealand's Minister for Sport Grant Robertson has said he supports any discussions around a potential name change for the Crusaders in the wake of the shootings, and "clearly this is a big issue for Canterbury".

"In terms of the Crusaders name, we understand the concerns that have been raised", CEO Colin Mansbridge said in a statement on the club's website on Sunday.

Robertson praised the club for their front foot approach.

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"I'm aware of the conversations that they're now having with, in particular, the Muslim community in Christchurch. I think that's appropriate", he said.

In a Facebook video posted on the Crusaders page on Tuesday Robertson expanded on the issue, saying the Crusaders "just want to do the right thing and there's a consultation process that will go on".

Williams' absence for the Highlanders clash will count as one of his mandatory All Blacks stand down weeks, with all New Zealand Test players needing to rest for two games ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

Crusaders leaders Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read have called for the immediate focus following the Christchurch mosque massacres to remain on the grieving Muslim community and not be sidetracked by their team's name.

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Sam Whitelock added: "I think at the moment this is much bigger than rugby".

"We are just trying to make sure we take the appropriate time, and make sure we are respectful, and those decisions will happen in time".

Original Crusaders chairman Donald Stewart revealed to stuff.co.nz that he had reservations about the name when the Super 12 was launched in 1996. While round six had always been targetted for the themed round, the outpouring of emotion from all around New Zealand after the tragic events in Christchurch was a further reminder of the importance of looking after each other.

"I had doubts on the basis that we were trying to project ourselves globally with an global competition", said Stewart, who is now based in Sydney. "I probably didn't share that opinion widely".

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