Makos players in Crusaders squad
A strong contingent of Tasman Makos players have been named in the Crusaders squad for Friday night's match against the Highlanders at Greymouth.
Hooker Quentin MacDonald, flanker Joe Wheeler and fullback Tom Marshall are in the starting XV while props Ben Franks and Sam Prattley plus utility back Mitchell Scott are on the interchange.
Franks may be the sole World Cup gold medallist on show as the Crusaders ease into their season against the Highlanders.
Although All Blacks halfback Andy Ellis has also been named in the reserves alongside prop Franks for the pre-season Super match, he will be placed back in cottonwool if the wider training group's Mark Swanepoel recovers from a minor injury.
While coach Todd Blackadder has named 27 men in the side to meet the southerners, he has elected to restrict his fit internationals to the roles of observers.
Richie McCaw (recovering from foot surgery) and Dan Carter (still on leave and not due back until early March) are not available but Kieran Read, Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock and Israel Dagg are among those All Blacks who have been told to rest for another week at least.
Zac Guildford is still serving a suspension after his alcohol-fuelled antics in Rarotonga.
"Most of those guys are probably two or three weeks behind the rest of the squad, so we just want to make sure they are not under-prepared," Blackadder said.
Some All Blacks are expected back for the following weekend's match against the Hurricanes in Mangatainoka and most will be in action for the final pre-season game against the Rebels in Melbourne a week later.
With rival playmaker Tom Taylor unavailable with a tender shoulder, Tyler Bleyendaal has been given a chance to impress Blackadder in the number 10 spot.
McCaw consulted a specialist who noted the Crusaders captain's recovery was progressing as expected.
Prop Wyatt Crockett will lead the side in Greymouth but during McCaw's absence in the competition, Read will again captain the team.
As part of their camp the squad will be involved in visiting several schools on the coast from Westport down to the Fox Glacier.
Wyatt Crockett (c), Quentin MacDonald, Nick Barrett, Ross Kennedy, Tom Donnell, Joe Wheeler, Matt Todd, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Tyler Bleyendaal, Adam Whitelock, Ryan Crotty, Robbie Fruean, Sean Maitland, Tom Marshall. Interchange players – forwards: Joe Moody, Ben Franks, Sam Prattley, Ben Funnell, Codie Taylor, Luke Romano, Dominic Bird, Brendon O'Connor, George Whitlock; backs: Mark Swanepoel, Mitchell Scott, Patrick Osborne, Andy Ellis. Unavailable: Tom Taylor, Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Zac Guildford, Israel Dagg, Johnny McNicoll.