WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Heiden Bedwell-Curtis has beaten Australia international Pete Samu to the starting blindside flanker role for the Canterbury Crusaders as they seek a ninth Super Rugby title in the final against the Lions in Christchurch on Saturday.
Bedwell-Curtis replaces the injured Jordan Taufua in the only change to the starting lineup from the team that beat the Wellington Hurricanes 30-12 in the semi-finals last week.
Taufua required surgery after breaking his arm in that game and was ruled out for at least 12 weeks. Samu replaced Taufua last week and coach Scott Robertson appears to prefer the impact he makes off the bench.
Injury concerns means Robertson will wait until closer to the game before deciding between Sam Anderson-Heather and Andrew Makalio for a spot on the bench as backup for All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor.
Makalio was a late withdrawal from last week’s semi-final due to a calf injury and was replaced by Seb Siataga on the bench. Siataga, however, also broke his arm during the semi-final, forcing Robertson to bring Anderson-Heather into the equation.
Anderson-Heather has played just six minutes of Super Rugby this season, though Robertson could still bring Makalio back if he passes fitness tests.
There was no place for sentimentality in the squad as stalwart prop Wyatt Crockett, the only player to have played 200 Super Rugby matches, again missed out for what would have been his final match before retirement.
Joe Moody will start the game with Tim Perry on the bench.
Crusaders: 15-David Havili, 14-Seta Tamanivalu, 13-Jack Goodhue, 12-Ryan Crotty, 11-George Bridge, 10-Richie Mo’unga, 9-Bryn Hall, 8-Kieran Read, 7-Matt Todd, 6-Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5-Sam Whitelock (captain), 4-Scott Barrett, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-Joe Moody
Replacements: 16-Sam Anderson-Heather/Andrew Makalio, 17-Tim Perry, 18-Alan Alaalatoa, 19-Luke Romano, 20-Pete Samu, 21-Mitchell Drummond, 22-Mitch Hunt, 23-Braydon Ennor
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford