Kieran Read, Dan Carter, Israel Dagg and Nemani Nadolo all return to the starting lineup for the Crusaders to take on the Blues.
Kieran Read, Dan Carter, Israel Dagg and Nemani Nadolo all return to the starting lineup for the Crusaders this weekend when they take on the Blues at AMI Stadium. They are four of six new faces in the starting XV.
In the forwards, Ben Funnell and Owen Franks have taken starting spots in place of Corey Flynn and Nepo Laulala, who will be ready to inject some energy off the bench.
Kieran Read's return to number eight means Luke Whitelock takes another of the reserve spots. Read will also captain the team.
Nemani Nadolo has returned from international duties in Fiji to take the left wing and Kieron Fonotia will start on the right wing.
Colin Slade retains the fly-half role and Dan Carter slots in at inside centre, while Ryan Crotty moves in one place to outside centre. Israel Dagg has recovered from injury to take the 15 jersey.
“Training this week has felt like the lead up to a final. There was a huge amount of disappointment and frustration following last week's loss, but we've had to push that aside and put our full focus on this next opportunity,” said Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder.
“We know that the Blues are desperate for the win, but there is absolutely no lack of determination and desire amongst this squad so we can expect to see fireworks on Saturday night.
“We have the advantage of playing at home and we can't wait to hear the roar of a Crusaders crowd at AMI Stadium again. That home crowd may just be the extra lift that makes the difference in what is going to be an epic battle.”
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Kieron Fonotia, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Johnny McNicholl
Date: Saturday, July 5
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kickoff: 19:35 (local, 07:35 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Mike Lash (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)