Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: All Black trio pay price for poor showing

Todd Blackadder. Photo / Getty Images
Todd Blackadder. Photo / Getty Images

The All Blacks coaches hoped the players at their recent training camp would go back to their franchises revitalised by the change of scenery but the Crusaders front row of Wyatt Crockett, Corey Flynn and Owen Franks will mark their return on the reserves bench.

Current All Blacks Crockett and Franks, plus former international Flynn, are high profile casualties of the shock loss to the Sharks in Christchurch last weekend.

Todd Blackadder is giving relative youngsters Tim Perry, Ben Funnell and Nepo Laulala a chance to impress in what is an important match against the Highlanders under the roof in Dunedin tomorrow.

The Crusaders have taken to replacing the front row after about 50 minutes due to the increased pressure placed on them at scrum time, but the demotion is likely to hurt the experienced trio.

Blackadder will hope the message will be felt by the whole of his team, who needed only a victory last weekend to go to the top of the table.

Instead, they find themselves two points behind the Highlanders, third in the New Zealand conference and sixth overall. Another misfire could be costly.

Kieran Read is again missing for the Crusaders. He has recovered from his concussion, but flu symptoms have prevented him from taking part in contact training.

The All Black No 8 has now missed four matches for the Crusaders after being concussed while playing against the Chiefs on April 19.

Andy Ellis returns to the No 9 jersey and Israel Dagg, who was rested against the Sharks, starts at fullback. Tom Taylor has been given the task of marking the in-form Malakai Fekitoa.

The confidence among the Highlanders will be high after their gritty victory over the Hurricanes in Wellington, and this match, and the later game tomorrow between the Chiefs and Hurricanes in the capital, is likely to have a big bearing on the outcome of the New Zealand conference.

Former All Black Ellis will be up against Aaron Smith, with Dagg marking rival Ben Smith.

It will be Colin Slade's first return to the Forsyth Barr Stadium since his move back to the Crusaders.

- APNZ

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