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Crusaders name nine All Blacks in starting team to play Highlanders

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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The Crusaders have rolled out the big guns for their Super Rugby Pacific clash against the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Friday.

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The Christchurch-based franchise have named nine All Blacks in their starting lineup to square off against their South Island neighbours, with head coach Scott Robertson making only two changes to his run-on XV.

At halfback, one-test international Mitchell Drummond is promoted from the bench to replace Bryn Hall, while Sevu Reece slots onto the right wing in place of George Bridge, who joins Hall in the reserves.

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Drummond and Reece are joined by captain Scott Barrett, vice-captain David Havili, Sam Whitelock, Will Jordan, Joe Moody, Braydon Ennor and Cullen Grace as the All Blacks in the side’s starting team.

In Los Pumas star Pablo Matera, who has been named to start at blindside flanker, the Crusaders have even more international experience in their forward pack.

The demotion of Bridge to the bench is a nod to last week’s efforts of left wing Leicester Fainga’anuku, who starred in his side’s season-opening 42-32 win over the Hurricanes by scoring a hat-trick of tries.

Another who impressed in that match, young first-five Fergus Burke, has also been retained in the No 10 jersey following his standout display in the absence of star playmaker Richie Mo’unga.

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Only one further alteration has been made on the bench, with young loose forward Corey Kellow in line to make his Super Rugby Pacific debut after replacing Mitchell Dunshea in the No 20 jersey.

The Crusaders are eyeing up a second successive win to start their 2022 campaign, but Robertson was adamant his men will be made to work for their win after they were stunned by the Highlanders in their most recent meeting last April.

“We know how dangerous the Highlanders can be,” Robertson said in a statement.

“We only have to look back at our last encounter with them to appreciate the challenge in front of us on Friday night, but we’ve prepared well and we’re ready for it.

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“It’s a home game for the Highlanders but it’s going to be a pretty unique experience for both teams, without the noise and energy of the zoo, filling the stadium.

“In saying that, they’re always special matches between these two sides, and I’m sure this contest under the roof will be no different.”

Kick-off for Friday’s match is scheduled for 7:05pm.

Crusaders team to play the Highlanders

1. Joe Moody
2. Brodie McAlister
3. Oli Jager
4. Scott Barrett (c)
5. Sam Whitelock
6. Pablo Matera
7. Tom Christie
8. Cullen Grace
9. Mitchell Drummond
10. Fergus Burke
11. Leicester Fainga’anuku
12. David Havili (vc)
13. Braydon Ennor
14. Sevu Reece
15. Will Jordan

Reserves:

16. Shilo Klein
17. George Bower
18. Tamaiti Williams
19. Quentin Strange
20. Corey Kellow*
21. Bryn Hall
22. Simon Hickey
23. George Bridge

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