Crusaders’ 3 changes to face Highlanders

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has made three player rotations in naming his side to face defending Super Rugby champions the Highlanders in Dunedin.

Halfback Andy Ellis, lock Luke Romano and tighthead prop Owen Franks all come off the bench and into the competition leaders’ starting 15 for Friday night’s match.

They replace Mitchell Drummond, Scott Barrett and Mike Alaalatoa, who move back to the bench.

“There is nothing like a classic southern derby to bring out the best in both the Crusaders and the Highlanders,” Blackadder said.

“It’s always a great game with an amazing atmosphere and, with both teams playing well and hungry for the win, there is sure to be plenty of passion on the field.”

The Crusaders moved to the top of the overall table after racking up their eighth successive victory, a 38-5 result at home over the Queensland Reds.

Meanwhile, back-up halfback Leon Fukofuka, who joined the squad this season, has re-signed for two more years.

“I’m just loving being part of this Crusaders environment,” Fukofuka said.

“It is a great group of players and coaches whom I am learning a lot from, so re-signing was really an easy decision to make.”

The Highlanders, who toppled previous leaders the Chiefs last weekend, are fourth in the Australasian group, from which five sides will make the playoffs.

Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Johnny McNicholl, Kieron Fonotia, David Havili, Jone Macilai, Richie Mo’unga, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (capt), Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett. Res: Ged Robinson, Joe Moody, Mike Alaalatoa, Scott Barrett, Tim Boys, Mitchell Drummond, Ryan Crotty, Marty McKenzie.

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