The BNZ Crusaders return to AMI Stadium this weekend, following their successful tour to South Africa and Argentina in recent weeks. The side are preparing to take on the Sunwolves in Christchurch on Saturday night. 

Head Coach Scott Robertson has made a number of changes to his starting team for this match, including the highly-anticipated return of experienced All Blacks and Super Rugby centurions Owen Franks and Israel Dagg.

Franks makes his return from an Achilles injury and joins Ben Funnell and Tim Perry as the starting front row. At lock, Scott Barrett and Quinten Strange earn starts this week, and Luke Romano will provide cover in the reserves. Regular captain Sam Whitelock will be rested this week, meaning flanker Matt Todd will take over the captaincy for this match. 

In the back row, Tom Sanders shifts from the blindside to No. 8, making way for 23 year-old Ethan Blackadder to make his Investec Super Rugby debut in the No. 6 jersey on Saturday night. 

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Robertson has also reshuffled the back line, which sees Manasa Mataele shift from the right to left wing for this match. Dagg slots in on the right wing, having recovered from his knee injury, and George Bridge will move to the fullback position. Mitchell Drummond will start at halfback, and Mike Delany at first five-eighth, with Mitch Hunt to provide first-five cover for Delany on the bench. 

In the reserves, halfback Jack Stratton could be set to make his Super Rugby debut on Saturday night, if called upon from the bench. 

Kick off is 7:35pm, Saturday 21 April, at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.


BNZ Crusaders team to play the Sunwolves:

1.        Tim Perry
RESERVES
2.        Ben Funnell 16.    Andrew Makalio
3.        Owen Franks 17.    Wyatt Crockett
4.        Scott Barrett 18.    Chris King
5.        Quinten Strange 19.    Luke Romano
6.        Ethan Blackadder* 20.    Pete Samu
7.        Matt Todd (C) 21.    Jack Stratton*
8.        Tom Sanders 22.    Mitchell Hunt 
9.        Mitchell Drummond 23.    Seta Tamanivalu
10.      Mike Delany   
11.      Manasa Mataele   
12.      Ryan Crotty (VC)  
13.      Tim Bateman  
14.      Israel Dagg  
15.      George Bridge  


*denotes debut

Tickets for all of the BNZ Crusaders 2018 Investec Super Rugby games are available via www.ticketdirect.co.nz, or at one of Ticket Direct's official outlets. Please avoid purchasing tickets through resale sites such as Viagogo, as these tickets won't be accepted at AMI Stadium.