Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Owen Franks 'pumped' for starting role

Owen Franks is pumped up to face the Chiefs on Friday. Photo / Andrew Cornaga
Owen Franks is pumped up to face the Chiefs on Friday. Photo / Andrew Cornaga

Owen Franks admits he isn't the easiest man to get along with if he doesn't start with the Crusaders every week.

Controlled fury is a pre-requisite for tight forwards and Franks walks a fine line at times if he doesn't get to wear the number three jersey.

But now he has received the nod to start against the Chiefs in Napier on Friday after two matches from the reserves bench, he is a new man.

"Hell yeah, I'm pumped up for it,'' he said. "I never enjoy sitting on the bench and this one is going to be a grudge match so I'm very happy to be starting. It's going to be a big one for me.''

The problem for Franks and the conundrum for coach Todd Blackadder is that the Crusaders have three extremely capable props in Franks, his big brother Ben, and Wyatt Crockett.

Fitting three players into two positions is tough and disgruntled individuals can quickly distract teammates.

Blackadder went with Crockett, last year's New Zealand Super Rugby player of the year, at loosehead and Ben at tighthead against the Blues and Highlanders.

This time it is Crockett's turn to sit on the bench, with Ben, who can play both sides of the scrum, at loosehead.

"I understand the reasoning behind it and the benefits,'' said Owen.

"Todd sat us props down at the start of the season and talked to us about rotating us. He said we've got three pretty good props and he wasn't going to favour anyone over anyone else. Whether that was indication of pre-season I don't know, but I thought I had a pretty good pre-season.''

Franks, a 24-year-old with 31 All Blacks caps to his name, is a demanding individual as befits someone who brings his own lunchbox with him wherever he goes - even on tour when meals are provided.

He doesn't like accepting second best which is why he is generally so offended when discovering his isn't the third name read out in any team sheet.

"I have the philosophy where I allow myself to get pissed off for an hour or so but I don't let my teammates see. Then I go out and train hard. It's tough but you just have to deal with it.''

Now he has got the result he always looks for mid-week, he is turning his attentions to the Chiefs at McLean Park, a match which promises to be an interesting one, not least because it will be the first time midfielder Sonny Bill Williams has come up against his former team.

It will also be the first time Chiefs assistant coach Wayne Smith has coached against his former Crusaders franchise.

"We've both won one and lost one and the Chiefs are coming off a huge one [victory over the Blues],'' said Franks, who received a white card for a punch thrown at Highlanders prop Chris King on Saturday.

"It was dealt with reasonably well from my point of view,'' said Franks who was cleared on Monday. "It was only minor but in the past it could have resulted in a sinbinning when really it was only a penalty.''

In other changes to the Crusaders, All Black Corey Flynn will start at hooker for the first time this season and Luke Romano replaces Sam Whitelock at lock. Zac Guildford has been reinstated to the left wing, with fellow Hawke's Bay player Israel Dagg moved to the right wing and Sean Maitland to fullback.

Adam Whitelock retains his place at second-five due to Ryan Crotty's hamstring strain.

The Chiefs named an unchanged starting XV, with lock Mike Fitzgerald and outside back Jackson Willison replacing Fritz Lee and Declan O'Donnell on the reserves bench.

Crusaders: Ben Franks, Corey Flynn, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Tom Donnelly, George Whitelock, Matt Todd, Kieran Read (c), Andy Ellis, Tyler Bleyendaal, Zac Guildford, Adam Whitelock, Robbie Fruean, Israel Dagg, Sean Maitland. Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Wyatt Crockett, Sam Whitelock, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Tom Taylor, Tom Marshall.

Chiefs: Arizona Taumalolo, Mahonri Schwalger, Ben Tameifuna, Craig Clarke, Brodie Retallick, Liam Messam, Tanerau Latimer, Kane Thompson, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Tim Nanai-Williams, Sonny Bill Williams, Richard Kahui, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Robbie Robinson. Reserves: Hika Elliot, Shane Cleaver, Mike Fitzgerald, Sam Cane, Augustine Pulu, Andrew Horrell, Jackson Willison.

- APNZ

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