All Blacks front rowers benched by Crusaders
All Blacks props Owen Franks and Wyatt Crockett have been dropped for the Crusaders' South Island derby against the Highlanders, but World Cup star Israel Dagg is back.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has made six changes after the insipid 30-25 loss to the 14-man Sharks in Christchurch last Saturday.
He has benched his entire front row with Franks and Crockett joined on the bench by former All Blacks hooker Corey Flynn for Saturday's game in Dunedin.
Nepo Laulala would replace Franks at tighthead prop with Tim Perry in Crockett's loosehed slot. Ben Funnell would start at hooker.
Crusaders management insisted the changes were not related to form because Franks, Flynn and Crockett were among the Crusaders' better performers against the Sharks.
It is understood coaches Todd Blackadder and Dave Hewett want to give Laulala more game time to prepare him for when Franks returns from All Blacks duty against England.
Dagg would return at fullback after being rested against the Sharks and Tom Taylor would shift from fullback to centre, replacing Reynold Lee-Lo, who lost out on a place on the bench to New Zealand sevens international Adam Whitelock.
The Crusaders coaching staff have resisted any temptation to shift left wing Nemani Nadolo to centre.
Former All Black Andy Ellis would start at halfback with Willi Heinz on the bench.
All Blacks squad member Luke Whitelock, who was excellent in Brisbane against the Reds, but ineffective against the Sharks, would continue at No 8 with Kieran Read still sidelined with flu.
Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Johnny McNicholl, Tom Taylor, Ryan Crotty (c), Nemani Nadolo, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Luke Whitelock, Richie McCaw, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Nepo Laulala, Ben Funnell, Tim Perry. Reserves: Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett, Owen Franks, Jimmy Tupou, George Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Adam Whitelock, Nafi Tuitavake.