June 19, 2019 / 6:15 AM / a month ago

Crusaders beef up with return of Franks, Taylor for Highlanders

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Owen Franks and Codie Taylor will return from injury to bolster the Canterbury Crusaders’ scrum for their Super Rugby quarter-final against the Otago Highlanders on Friday, reuniting with All Blacks team mate Joe Moody for the first time this season.

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - New Zealand Press Conference - The Lensbury, Teddington, Britain - November 8, 2018 New Zealand's Owen Franks during the press conference Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

The duo’s return for the game in Christchurch has allowed Scott Robertson to name his strongest team of the season as they bid for their third successive title.

Franks has not played for the nine-times champions since April 6 due to a small tear in his shoulder muscle.

“I tried to shake it off, I thought it might have been a stinger or something,” the tighthead prop told reporters on Wednesday.

“But as soon as I went to bind, it felt pretty sloppy and just a whole lot of pain shooting up my arm.”

The injury had raised concerns Franks might need surgery, which could have jeopardised his chances of going to a third Rugby World Cup before he joins English Premiership club Northampton Saints.

However, scans showed he would just need time to recover and the Crusaders decided not to rush him back, preferring to select him for the knockout stages if he was fit.

“I’m pretty pumped with the outcome, to be honest,” Franks said. “It’s feeling really good.

“Whenever you avoid surgery, it’s a win. It was a tough call, because there was a bit riding on it either way. But I’m glad the medical staff backed me and did their job really well to get me back on the field.”

The 31-year-old will reunite with loosehead prop Moody and Taylor, who broke his finger against the Stormers last month in Cape Town.

The hooker, who has become the All Blacks first-choice over the last two seasons, said the injury had actually come with a silver lining — getting him out of household chores.

“It gets me out of dishes because I wasn’t allowed to get it wet for a while,” Taylor said. “And (changing) nappies actually in case it got infected.”

Robertson added it was tough on the players who had stepped into the engine room of the Crusaders’ scrum in the absence of his two All Blacks, but he felt the duo had to start the knockout game.

“Owie is probably not an impact player, he’s a great starter, and he’s had a couple of extra weeks to get his engine going,” Robertson said.

“When you’ve played 300 first class games, I think experience counts when you come into these big games.”

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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