Richie McCaw has predictably been rushed back into action for the Crusaders, after their disastrous defeat to the Reds last weekend. The All Black skipper wins a place on the reserve bench for Friday’s encounter with the Sharks.
Another pair of All Blacks, lock Brad Thorn and prop Wyatt Crockett, find themselves in the starting lineup against a Sharks pack that has a menacing look – at least on paper. Thorn comes in for the injured Isaac Ross, while Crockett replaces one of the Franks brothers at loosehead – it’s not like anyone can really tell them apart!
Changes in the backline see Ryan Crotty start at inside centre – Tim Bateman is injured – and Sean Maitland come in on the wing. Jared Payne moves to fullback, with utility Colin Slade playing off the wood this week.
15 Jared Payne, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 George Whitelock, 6 Kieran Read (capt), 5 Brad Thorn, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Ti’i Paulo, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Joe Wheeler, 19 Richie McCaw, 20 Kahn Fotuali’i, 21 Adam Whitelock, 22 Colin Slade.