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All Blacks trio return to starting lineup for Crusaders clash against Highlanders

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

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The Crusaders have welcomed three All Blacks into their starting side to face the Highlanders at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch on Friday.

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Head coach Scott Robertson has made minimal changes from the team that dispatched the Chiefs 34-19 in Hamilton last weekend, but has still found room for three further All Blacks in an already stacked starting team.

Electric wing Sevu Reece returns to the No 14 jersey in place of Chay Fihaki after impressing off the bench at FMG Stadium Waikato, while loosehead prop Joe Moody comes into the side at the expense of Finlay Brewis.

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One-test All Blacks halfback Mitchell Drummond is also rewarded for his injection of class off the bench against the Chiefs, swapping roles with Bryn Hall, who drops to the bench.

The only other change to the starting lineup comes at tighthead prop, where Fletcher Newell takes the place of Oli Jager.

Of the newbies on the bench, rookie lock Zach Gallagher is in line for his Super Rugby Pacific debut following injuries to Sam Whitelock and Mitchell Dunshea.

Los Pumas star Pablo Matera also returns to the reserves after missing last week’s match, as does All Blacks utility back Braydon Ennor and hooker Shilo Klein.

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“Zach has trained well and is deserving of his chance to pull on the jersey this week and run out in front of his home crowd,” Robertson said via a statement.

“We’re really excited for Zach – he’s a tough, relentless player with a massive engine, so we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do.

“He’s a local lad too, who came up through the grades here in Christchurch, so it’s a big occasion for him to have the opportunity to debut in front of his friends and family.”

Kick-off for Friday’s South Island derby is scheduled for 7:05pm.

Crusaders team to play the Highlanders

1. Joe Moody
2. Codie Taylor (vc)
3. Fletcher Newell
4. Scott Barrett (c)
5. Quinten Strange
6. Ethan Blackadder
7. Tom Christie
8. Cullen Grace
9. Mitchell Drummond
10. Richie Mo’unga
11. George Bridge
12. David Havili (vc)
13. Leicester Fainga’anuku
14. Sevu Reece
15. Will Jordan

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Reserves

16. Shilo Klein
17. George Bower
18. Tamaiti Williams
19. Zach Gallagher
20. Pablo Matera
21. Bryn Hall
22. Fergus Burke
23. Braydon Ennor

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