Reuben Thorne returns to the Crusaders captaincy for the first time in two years while flanker George Whitelock will make his Super 14 rugby debut against the Lions in Christchurch on Saturday.
Report courtesy News24.
There are eight personnel changes and one positional switch to the starting 15 who accounted for the Hurricanes 20-13 in Wellington two weeks ago. The Crusaders had a bye last week.
The changes have been forced for a variety of reasons, including injury with fullback Le on MacDonald (thigh muscle) and flyhalf Daniel Carter (ankle) not available.
Lock Brad Thorn (calf) and centre Stephen Brett (shoulder) are still in doubt but have been named on the reserve bench. Decisions on them will be left closer to kickoff.
If Thorn is ruled out by his niggling calf complaint, Ross Filipo will make his return from the bench after missing the first section of the campaign due to a neck injury.
Two players, winger Kade Poki and halfback Kahn Fotuali’i, have been stood down from the playing 22 under internal team protocols, after missing a training session last week.
Halfback Steve Alfeld, from the wider training group has been named among the reserves.
Hamish Gard will make his first start at first flyhalf while wingers Sean Maitland and Caleb Ralph are the other personnel changes from the backline which started at Wellington.
Scott Hamilton moves from the wing to fullback.
Up front, the selection of Whitelock on the side of the scrum, and Thorne as captain, lightens the load on regular skipper Richard McCaw, who has been rested.
The other changes among the forwards see lock Michael Paterson promoted from the bench, while hooker Ti’i Paulo and loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett take over in the front row from Corey Flynn and Ben Franks respectively.
Crusaders: Scott Hamilton, Sean Maitland, Casey Laulala, Tim Bateman, Caleb Ralph, Hamish Gard, Andrew Ellis, Mose Tuiali’i, George Whitelock, Reuben Thorne (captain), Ali Williams, Michael Paterson, Greg Somerville, Ti’i Paulo, Wyatt Crockett.
Reserves: Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Brad Thorn, Nasi Manu, Steve Alfeld, Stephen Brett, Kieran Read.Tweet