Sam Whitelock out, Crotty and Franks return for Crusaders' clash with Blues

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has made six changes to his side to face the Blues at Eden Park this weekend, including a return for star All Blacks Owen Franks and Ryan Crotty, while captain Sam Whitelock will not feature.

With Whitelock unavailable for selection this week, flanker Matt Todd will lead the side, while Quinton Strange comes into the starting line-up in the imposing lock's place.

Owen Franks returns to the front row, partnering with Tim Perry in what could shape as the All Blacks' front row for the June series against France, with Codie Taylor at hooker.

In the backline, Crotty's return to action will see him pair up again in midfield with youngster Jack Goodhue, while George Bridge switches from fullback to the left wing.

David Havili will run out in the number 15 jersey.

CRUSADERS: 15. David Havili, 14. Seta Tamanivalu, 13. Jack Goodhue, 12. Ryan Crotty, 11. George Bridge, 10. Richie Mo'unga, 9. Bryn Hall, 8. Jordan Taufua, 7. Matt Todd, 6. Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5. Quinten Strange, 4. Scott Barrett, 3. Owen Franks, 2. Codie Taylor, 1. Tim Perry.

Replacements: 16. Andrew Makalio, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Michael Alaalatoa, 19. Mitchell Dunshea, 20. Pete Samu, 21. Mitchell Drummond, 22. Mitchell Hunt, 23. Manasa Mataele.

Sam Whitelock tackled by Israel Folau
Waratahs v Crusaders Super rugby match at Allianz Stadium, Sydney Australia. Sunday 2 April 2017. Photo: Paul Seiser /
Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock tackled by Waratahs' fullback Israel Folau. Source: Photosport


Rieko Ioane returns to the wing as Blues name side to face Crusaders

Blues coach Tana Umaga has had to make some enforced changes to his side for this weekend's clash with the Crusaders, with a number of surprise selections for the Eden Park showdown.

Young superstar Rieko Ioane switches back to the left wing, taking the place of Caleb Clarke who is left out altogether ahead of the NZ under-20s World Cup campaign. Melani Nani returns on the right hand side of the outside backs trio.

Lock Matiaha Martin will make his debut for the Blues, with Patrick Tuipulotu out injured.

Flanker Dalton Papalii has been bracketed alongside Murphy Taramai, with Umaga giving him as long as possible to prove his fitness.

Fullback Michael Collins will return to the bench, having missed four weeks with a hand injury.

BLUES: 15. Matt Duffie, 14. Melani Nanai, 13. Orbyn Leger, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 11. Rieko Ioane, 10. Stephen Perofeta, 9. Augustine Pulu (c), 8. Akira Ioane, 7. Dalton Papalii/Murphy Taramai, 6. Jerome Kaino, 5. Matiaha Martin, 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3. Ofa Tu'ungafasi. 2. James Parsons, 1. Pauliasi Manu.

Resreves: 16. Matt Moulds, 17. Ross Wright, 18. Sione Mafileo, 19. Ben Nee-Nee, 20. Murphy Taramai/Antonio Kiri Kiri, 21. Jonathan Ruru, 22. Dan Kirpatrick, 23. Michael Collins.

Rieko Ioane of the Blues is tackled by Curwin Bosch of the Sharks. Super Rugby match, Blues v Sharks at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. 31 March 2018 © Copyright Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung /
Rieko Ioane. Source: Photosport



Watch: Kieran Read backs Crusaders star Jordan Taufua for All Blacks call up

All Blacks captain Kieran Read threw his support firmly behind Crusaders teammate Jordan Taufua, 26, with the number eight in contention to replace the injured skipper for the upcoming Test series with France next month.

Read, 32, will miss the series, having not recovered from a back injury picked up on the All Blacks' end of year tour last November.

Speaking to media having returned to Crusaders training today, Read spoke highly of the possibility of Taufua being selected for his first All Blacks stint.

"He's been great for us over the last few seasons," he said.

"He's slightly a different player to the traditional number eight or six. He's a great ball carrier and he hits really hard.

"He's been chipping away, and if he gets the chance I'm sure he'll do really well."

The All Blacks' squad for the France series is named on Sunday.

Taufua is an option to replace captain Read for June's series against France. Source: 1 NEWS