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Four All Blacks omitted as Crusaders look to bounce back against Force

By Tom Vinicombe
(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

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The Crusaders have made eight changes for this weekend’s clash with the Western Force following last weekend’s shock loss to the Waratahs, including dropping four All Blacks from the match-day 23.

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Hooker Codie Taylor, prop George Bower, centre Jack Goodhue and wing Sevu Reece are all absent from the line-up this week, with coach Scott Robertson continuing to rotate his side in the lead-up to the quarter-finals.

Taylor’s No 2 jersey will be filled by Ricky Jackson, while academy member George Bell could earn his Super Rugby debut off the bench despite not yet even playing a game of provincial rugby. Rounding out the front row, Tamaiti Williams takes over from Bower and Oli Jager holds down his spot at tighthead.

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Zach Gallagher, who was a late scratching against the Waratahs, will resume his apprenticeship in the second row alongside Crusaders vice-captain Sam Whitelock.

There’s just one change in the loose forwards with Ethan Blackadder returning to the team on the openside flank in place of the rested Tom Christie.

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The halves have been overhauled for this weekend’s fixture with Mitchell Drummond and Richie Mo’unga taking over from Bryn Hall and Fergus Burke.

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Goodhue has been replaced in the No 13 jersey by fellow All Black Braydon Ennor, who will resume his partnership with David Havili in the midfield.

In the outside backs, Bridge takes over from Reece on the right wing with Leicester Fainga’anuku and Will Jordan once again named in the No 11 and No 15 jerseys.

Bell will be joined by Finlay Brewis and Fletcher Newell as front-row replacements on Saturday night while Gardiner and Sione Havili Talitui round out the forward reserves. Hall, Burke and Chay Fihaki will cover the backs.

Coach Robertson will be expecting a big response from his men following last week’s surprise defeat at the hands of a team who weren’t able to record any wins throughout last year’s campaign.

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Currently, the Crusaders sit in third place on the overall ladder and have likely lost the opportunity to enter the sudden death stages of Super Rugby Pacific as the top-seeded team, with the Blues six points ahead of them on the competition ladder.

Saturday’s match between the Force and Crusaders is due to kick off at 5:45pm AWST (9:45pm NZT) from HBF Park in Perth.

Crusaders: Will Jordan, George Bridge, Braydon Ennor, David Havili, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Richie Mo’unga, Mitchell Drummond, Cullen Grace, Ethan Blackadder, Pablo Matera, Sam Whitelock, Zach Gallagher, Oli Jager, Ricky Jackson, Tamaiti Williams. Reserves: George Bell, Finlay Brewis, Fletcher Newell, Dominic Gardiner, Sione Havili Talitui, Bryn Hall, Fergus Burke, Chay Fihaki.

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