Todd Blackadder rests key players against Force
Sam Whitelock and Matt Todd have been given permission to do little more than work on their tans in Perth this week.
The pair, arguably the cream of the Crusaders' forward pack in recent weeks, have been instructed to skip Saturday night's Super Rugby match against the Western Force after coach Todd Blackadder made four changes to the side that lost 21-17 to the Sharks in Durban last weekend.
Lock Whitelock and openside flanker Todd will not be required as Blackadder demands they let their bodies recuperate ahead of the Highlanders fixture at AMI Stadium on April 20.
Dominic Bird starts in the second row and Christie, who was selected in the squad this season following a series of vigorous efforts for Tasman in last year's NPC, earns his first run in the No 7 jersey.
Bird, who made several run-on appearances earlier in the campaign because Luke Romano injured his ribs in the opening match against the Blues, needs to use this opportunity to remind All Blacks coach Steve Hansen he is a worthy prospect for the future.
With Hansen acknowledging he cannot rely on his old campaigners to maintain their form through to the next World Cup, Bird should relish this chance to again promote himself and aim for selection in the All Blacks' wider training group camps ahead of the June tests against France.
Although Blues captain Ali Williams' experience at test level is vast and his current form has been in stark contrast to his efforts 12 months ago, Hansen may be tempted to add Bird's name alongside those of Brodie Retallick, Whitelock and Romano as he begins assessing his personnel ahead of the 2015 global tournament.
No 8 Luke Whitelock, who again gets a run in place of the injured Kieran Read, was a bolter for last year's All Blacks camps and there will some incentive to show Hansen he has the resolve to maintain his form in this demanding competition.
Hooker Corey Flynn has recovered from the eye injury that forced him out of the Sharks game and replaces Ben Funnell. This will be Flynn's 250th first-class match.
Fullback Israel Dagg will make his first start in four matches after being named on the bench in Durban.
A hamstring niggle meant he did not start the previous two encounters against the Stormers and Southern Kings.
The relegation of wing Zac Guildford, who has yet to reach anything near his full potential in his three appearances, to the reserves means the Hawke's Bay duo have yet to start a match together this season.
Dan Carter's hamstring injury, which meant he was only in Perth for a couple of days before being sent back home to greet his newborn son in Christchurch, ensures Tyler Bleyendaal is once again at first five-eighth.
Carter's injury means he is unlikely to be available for the Highlanders game and may also miss the following match against the Rebels on April 28.
Kieran Fonotia, who has been playing for the Crusaders academy team at centre, has joined the squad as Carter's replacement but will not be required to suit-up.
Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Adam Whitelock, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Tom Marshall, Tyler Bleyendaal, Andy Ellis, Luke Whitelock, Shane Christie, George Whitelock (c), Dominic Bird, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Tom Donnelly, Jordan Taufua, Willi Heinz, Telusa Veainu, Zac Guildford.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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