Kieran Read is again missing for the Crusaders, his flu ruling him out of the match against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen suggested yesterday No8 Read would be sidelined for another week. While he has recovered from his concussion, his flu symptoms have prevented him from taking part in contact training. The All Black, named as the IRB player of the year last year, has now missed a total of four matches for the Crusaders after his concussion suffered against the Chiefs on April 19.
After last weekend's shock loss to the 14-man Sharks, Todd Blackadder has made six changes to his side. He has elected to send his All Blacks front row of Wyatt Crockett, Corey Flynn and Owen Franks to the reserves bench, picking Tim Perry, Ben Funnell and Nepo Laulala to start.
Andy Ellis returns to the No9 jersey and Israel Dagg, who was rested against the Sharks, starts at fullback. Tom Taylor has been given the challenge of marking in-form Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa.
The confidence among the Highlanders will be high after their gritty victory over the Hurricanes in Wellington, with this match, and the later game on Saturday between the Chiefs and Hurricanes in the capital, likely to have a big bearing on the outcome of the New Zealand conference.
Crusaders team to play the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium, kick-off 5.35pm is: Israel Dagg, Johnny McNicholl, Tom Taylor, Ryan Crotty (c), Nemani Nadolo, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Luke Whitelock, Richie McCaw, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Nepo Laulala, Ben Funnell, Tim Perry. Reserves: Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett, Owen Franks, Jimmy Tupou, George Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Adam Whitelock, Nafi Tuitavake.