All Black duo back for Crusaders
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson has made a number of changes to his starting team for their Super Rugby match against the Sunwolves in Christchurch on Saturday.
The changes include the highly-anticipated return of experienced All Blacks and Super Rugby centurions Owen Franks and Israel Dagg.
Franks makes his return from an Achilles injury and joins Ben Funnell and Tim Perry as the starting front row.
At lock, Scott Barrett and Quinten Strange earn starts this week, and Luke Romano will provide cover in the reserves. Regular captain Samuel Whitelock will be rested this week, meaning flank Matt Todd will take over the captaincy for this match.
In the back row, Tom Sanders shifts from the blindside to No.8, making way for 23-year-old Ethan Blackadder to make his Super Rugby debut in the No.6 jersey on Saturday.
Robertson has also reshuffled the backline, which sees Manasa Mataele shift from the right to left wing for this match. Dagg slots in on the right wing, having recovered from his knee injury, and George Bridge will move to the fullback position.
Mitchell Drummond will start at scrumhalf, and Mike Delany at first flyhalf, with Mitch Hunt to provide flyhalf cover for Delany on the bench.
In the reserves, scrumhalf Jack Stratton could be set to make his Super Rugby debut on Saturday, if called upon from the bench.
Crusaders: 15 George Bridge, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Matt Todd (captain), 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Chris King, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Jack Stratton, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Seta Tamanivalu.
Date: Saturday, April 21
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19.35 (16.35 Japan time; 07.35 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jamie Nutbrown, Cam Stone
TMO: Glenn Newman