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All Black dropped to bench as Crusaders make six starting changes for Force

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Peter Meecham/Getty Images)

The Crusaders have dropped one-Test All Black Cullen Grace to the bench as one of six changes to their starting side to take on the Western Force in Perth on Saturday evening.

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Grace, who has also played for the Maori All Blacks, will wear the No. 20 this week with Christian Lio-Willie getting the nod to start in the loose forwards.

The No. 8 joins captain Tom Christie and All Black Ethan Blackadder in the backrow, while the second row of Quinten Strange and Jamie Hannah has gone unchanged.

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Coach Rob Penney has named an all-new front row with Joe Moody set to pack down along with Brodie McAlister and Test veteran Owen Franks at HBF Park.

There are two changes in the backline with Mitchell Drummond replacing rising star Noah Hotham as the starting halfback, and Macca Springer being named to start on the wing.

Springer, who played for the New Zealand U20s last year along with Noah Hotham, comes in for Wales international Johnny McNicholl who has flown to Christchurch to have a finger injury assessed.

The rest of the backline remains the same with Rily Hohepa starting at first five, and Dallas McLeod and Levi Aumua lining up in the midfield. Sevu Reece and Chay Fihaki have retained their spots in the outside backs.

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Following their heartbreaking golden point defeat to the NSW Waratahs in Sydney, the Crusaders will be desperate to get the better of the last-placed Western Force this weekend.

But the Force won’t be an easy team to beat in Perth. They got the better of the then-high flying Queensland Reds in a big upset 40-31 win on March 23.

With both teams’ playoff hopes slipping away, another loss in round nine will be tough to overcome.

This match is set to get underway at 9:35 pm NZT on Saturday evening.

Crusaders team to take on Western Force

  1. Joe Moody
  2. Brodie McAlister
  3. Owen Franks
  4. Quinten Strange (vc)
  5. Jamie Hannah
  6. Ethan Blackadder
  7. Tom Christie (c)
  8. Christian Lio-Willie
  9. Mitchell Drummond (vc)
  10. Riley Hohepa
  11. Macca Springer
  12. Dallas McLeod
  13. Levi Aumua
  14. Sevu Reece
  15. Chay Fihaki

Replacements

  1. George Bell
  2. George Bower
  3. Fletcher Newell
  4. Dominic Gardiner
  5. Cullen Grace
  6. Noah Hotham
  7. Rivez Reihana
  8. Ryan Crotty
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Abe 3 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

Not a fan of your picks. McReight is good at club level but he is too small for international level and has consistently disappointed there. Better to go for larger guys. Kemeney, Valentini, Hooper, Leota, Samu, Swinton, etc. Aalatoa and Nonga are woeful scrummagers and don’t offer much around the field. Wallabies will not win if the scrum falls to pieces. The fact that Faamissli hasn’t been developed is a tragedy. Need a scrum that doesn’t give away penalties. So looks like a Talakai maybe instead. Best scrummagers need to be selected. McDermott runs the ball too much and doesn’t fit into a structured attack like Schmidts. Gets isolated too often. Ok off the bench late but not for 60 mins. Goal kicking has to be one of the top 3 points for a 10 so that does in Gordon and O’Connor. Be better off going for lynagh on that front. Donaldson and Noah seem to be doing best of the established names. QC a better mentor type guy than OConnor as well if he’s playing. Daugunu has been the most consistent 13 and breaks the line a lot so must be in the squad. Joost has also been good. Richie Arnold playing well for Toulouse and is a preeminent lineout jumper so needs to be in. Latu also playing well for La Rochelle and is better scrummager than the Aussie choices so should be in. The big guy at the Tahs Amataroso I think it is needs to be developed as well. Otherwise the team will be too small. Hodge is a better choice at fullback than Wright. Latter makes too many mistakes. Not sure if Hodge available.

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T
Turlough 7 hours ago
Four Leinster talking points after latest Champions Cup final loss

First of all: hats off to Toulouse an outstanding performance. Duponts kicking was phenomenal. Twice he challenged Keenan with amazing clearances from his 22 in extra time. Result was territory deep in Leinster half in the early part of extra time which lead to 2 penalties and the game. Remember also his two 50:22s? Now to Willis/Dupont. ANY slight isolation by a Leinster player resulted in a turnover penalty. How many turnovers in the Toulouse 22? Leinster’s defense was immense, they had opportunities in attack but they honestly looked like they had not spent enough time passing the ball in the training in the weeks preceding the final. Game management was poor. Toulouse’s scrum had crumbled. At 15-15 Leinster had a scrum advantage in a position that would be kickable for a scrum penalty. Leinster played on and missed a long range drop goal. You MUST take the scrum surely? Win penalty and its a shot at goal to win with time up. No penalty and you can attack and drop goal whatever. The distance from sideline penalties from Byrne was shocking. If you are kicking the line you must get close to that 5 metre line. How many times were Leinster forced to maul from 10-15 metres? Toulouse KNEW Leinster was going to kick and maul and clearly spent considerable training time neutralizing thuis threat. The maul was starting too far out, Toulouse were able to stop the heart of the drive. You must change tack and start kicking for goals. That said it always felt like Toulouse were the potent team on the day with Leinster under pressure and chasing. Even with their backline completely disrupted, Toulouse found a way. 9 Wins in their last 9 finals. Leinster will be there next year. But so will Toulouse/Northhampton etc. A great era of club rugby.

17 Go to comments
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