Crusaders rest key players for clash against Western Force
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Crusaders are preparing for their last regular-season home game in Christchurch and several players are set to get an opportunity this week, with head coach Scott Robertson making changes across the park for Friday’s fixture against the Western Force.
Robertson has rested George Bower, Sam Whitelock, Richie Mo’unga and Sevu Reece, which sees Tamaiti Williams and Fergus Burke come into the starting side at loosehead prop and flyhalf respectively, while Manasa Mataele will move to the right wing.
Mitchell Dunshea will once again partner Scott Barrett at lock, having stepped in late last week with Quinten Strange ruled out by a neck injury. Robertson has also called on the experience of 135-game veteran, Luke Romano, who will provide cover at lock in the absence of Whitelock.
In the backs, Bryn Hall will start at No.9, while Braydon Ennor returns from a shoulder injury to join vice-captain David Havili as the midfield pairing.
The inclusion of Isileli Tu’ungafasi, Tom Sanders, and Josh McKay round out the changes to the Crusaders 23 for this week, and Robertson said they’re all ready to take their opportunity: “Those guys have trained extremely hard, and they’re deserving of their opportunity this week, so it’s great to see the energy and excitement building towards this game.
“We know we need to perform, and we want to do so for the people of our region who have been going through a tough time this past week. The team we’ve selected is ready to do that.”
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Fergus Burke, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Sione Havili Talitui, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Tamaiti Williams.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Isileli Tu’ungafasi, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Dallas McLeod, 23 Josh McKay.
Date: Friday, June 4
Venue: Addington Showgrounds, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19.05 (15.05 AWST; 07.05 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: James Doleman, Brendon Pickerill
TMO: Chris Hart