WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Canterbury Crusaders coach Scott Robertson will unleash an entire All Blacks front five on the British and Irish Lions when they meet the tourists in the third match of their tour in Christchurch on Saturday.
After Wednesday’s 22-16 loss to the Auckland Blues, the only New Zealand Super Rugby team not to make the playoffs this season, the Lions now face an unbeaten Crusaders side with eight current or former All Blacks in the starting lineup.
With Codie Taylor expected to replace the injured Dane Coles at hooker for the All Blacks, the entire Crusaders front row of Joe Moody, Owen Franks and Taylor is also now expected to start the first test against the Lions at Eden Park on June 24.
The front row will be joined by Crusaders locks Luke Romano and captain Sam Whitelock in the All Blacks squad on Sunday, along with fullback Israel Dagg .
Matt Todd has been drafted in by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen as injury cover but the flanker is perhaps unlucky to have been passed over for a place in the full squad.
Centre Ryan Crotty will miss the Crusaders’ clash with the Lions due to a rib injury but has been named in the All Blacks squad. His uncapped Crusaders team mate, Jack Goodhue, is another one of Hansen’s injury cover picks.
Seta Tamanivalu, who played centre for the All Blacks last year, will start on the wing for the Crusaders on Saturday, while current All Blacks prop Wyatt Crockett will come off the bench.
”This is a huge and exciting challenge for us,“ Robertson said in a statement. ”We are facing some of the best rugby players in the world, but we have some of the world’s best in this team too, so it will be a fantastic clash.
“No matter how it unfolds, this will be a game that the players involved will remember as one of the special moments in their careers.”
Crusaders: 15-Israel Dagg, 14-Seta Tamanivalu, 13-Jack Goodhue, 12-David Havili, 11-George Bridge, 10-Richie Mo‘unga, 9-Bryn Hall, 8-Jordan Taufua, 7-Matt Todd, 6-Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5-Sam Whitelock (captain), 4-Luke Romano, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16-Ben Funnell, 17-Wyatt Crockett, 18-Michael Alaalatoa, 19-Quinten Strange, 20-Jed Brown, 21- Mitchell Drummond, 22-Mitch Hunt, 23-Tim Bateman.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford