The Crusaders will play their first home game in Christchurch this Friday night, when they host the Highlanders at Orangetheory Stadium.

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The only changes to the starting team this week are in the forwards, with Captain Scott Barrett (knee) and Oli Jager (concussion) both ruled out with injury. Luke Romano and Michael Alaalatoa come into the starting side at lock and tighthead prop respectively.

Isi Tuungafasi moves into the matchday team and will wear the number 17 jersey.

The backline remains unchanged this week, but there is a reshuffle of the captaincy with David Havili named as captain and Codie Taylor and Jack Goodhue vice-captains for this game.

Will Jordan (groin) has also been ruled out of this match, so Leicester Faingaanuku will be on the bench in his place.

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Meanwhile, Ethan Roots is set to become Crusader #241 on Friday night, if called on in the reserves to make his Super Rugby debut.

Roots will become the fourth new loose forward that the Crusaders have blooded this year with Tom Christie, Cullen Grace and Sione Havili all earning their first caps for the side over the past three weeks.

Coach Scott Robertson has no reservations about bringing another debutant into the mix.

“He’s [Roots] tough, he’s abrasive. We wanted someone who can cover six/lock, same as Cullen [Grace], and that’s what we got,” said Robertson.

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“He’s fitted in, he’s picked up the detail really quickly, he’s got a real good edge to him.”

Christie and Grace, in particular, have received plenty of praise for their performances so far with Christie topping the tackle charts for the year and Grace notching up 20 of his own in last week’s starting debut against the Blues.

The four newbie loose forwards are all 22-years-old or younger, showing there’s plenty of promise coming through the ranks for last year’s champions.

Kick-off in the Crusaders match against the Highlanders is 7:05pm, Friday 21st February, at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch.

Crusaders: David Havili (c), Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Tom Sanders, Tom Christie, Cullen Grace, Mitchell Dunshea, Luke Romano, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Andrew Makalio, Isi Tu’ungafasi, George Bower, Ethan Roots, Sione Havili, Mitchell Drummond, Brett Cameron, Leicester Fainga’anuku.

– with Crusaders Rugby

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