The Blues head to Christchurch this weekend for their highly anticipated top of the table clash with the Crusaders – but they won’t be fielding former All Black Dan Carter against his old side.

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Coach Leon MacDonald has made just two changes to the starting XV that has performed so well in the Blues’ most recent wins over the Chiefs and Highlanders.

Both changes come in the backline with Finlay Christie taking over from Sam Nock at halfback and Harry Plummer earning his second start of the year in the 12 jersey. Plummer’s promotion means midfield rock TJ Faiane will come off the bench.

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Shaun Stevenson was a handful at 1st XV schoolboy rugby level with Auckland Grammar. The fullback had a great step of both feet, a swerving run, and was masterful territorial kicker from the backfield.

The bench is further strengthened with the return of All Black Karl Tu’inukuafe and Blake Gibson, who have both recovered from injuries.

“The team is naturally excited about the contest and we are confident, based on our efforts every day in training,” said Blues head coach Leon MacDonald.

“The Crusaders are the benchmark in New Zealand rugby, so we are under no illusion about the task ahead of us. They have won the last 35 games of Super Rugby at home.

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“Just because we have won the last three games, we know that means nothing in the scheme of things.

“We know that we will need to be very accurate with and without the ball while the battle in the forwards for clean front-foot possession with be a key.

“If we can implement our game plan and execute, then there is no reason why we can’t provide a stern test. And if the weather plays ball, it should be a cracking game.”

MacDonald said Christie earned his start after excellent performances off the bench and he will renew his combination with fellow former Hurricanes backs Otere Black and Beauden Barrett.

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Blues: Beauden Barrett, Mark Telea, Rieko Ioane, Harry Plummer, Caleb Clarke, Otere Black, Finlay Christie, Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii, Akira Ioane, Josh Goodhue, Patrick Tuipulotu (c), Ofa Tu’ungafasi, James Parsons, Alex Hodgman. Reserves: Kurt Eklund, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Sione Mafileo, Aaron Carroll, Blake Gibson, Jonathan Ruru, TJ Faiane, Matt Duffie.

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