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All Blacks return for crucial Crusaders matchup with Rebels

Scott Robertson has recalled several All Blacks to the Crusaders starting line-up for their final Super Rugby Trans-Tasman round-robin fixture against the Rebels this weekend.

Richie Mo'unga gets past James O'Connor. Source: Photosport

George Bower, Sam Whitelock, Richie Mo'unga and Sevu Reece all return to the starting side this week, while hooker Codie Taylor will be rested and hasn't made the trip to Sydney.

It's a timely return for Brodie McAlister, who has recovered from the head knock he sustained against the Reds, and has been named to start this week in Taylor's absence.

In the loose forwards, Ethan Blackadder is also set to return from concussion and will slot in to the number six jersey, while Whetukamokamo Douglas shifts to number eight in place of Cullen Grace, who has been ruled out with a hip injury he picked up against the Western Force.

Mitchell Drummond, who earlier this week announced he has re-signed with the Crusaders through to 2024, will start at halfback, while the return of Mo'unga and Reece completes the changes in the backline.

"The equation is pretty simple for us. We'll know what we need to do come Saturday afternoon in Sydney," Robertson said.

"It's definitely been a finals mindset for us this week, and we just need to get over there and do what is required to earn ourselves another week together."

The Crusaders sit in third place on the table and will likely need a bonus-point victory to secure themselves a finals spot. They are equal on points with the Highlanders, but with an inferior points differential, and one point behind the Blues.

Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga'anuku, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Sione Havili Talitui, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Brodie McAlister, 1 George Bower.

Reserves: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Mitchell Dunshea, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Dallas McLeod, 23 Manasa Mataele.