Rugby: Straight back into the fray for Todd

It's straight back into the fray for Matt Todd. Photo / Getty Images.
It's straight back into the fray for Matt Todd. Photo / Getty Images.

It's straight back into the fray for Matt Todd, the Crusaders flanker making himself available to start for defending champions Canterbury in their ITM Cup match against Taranaki on Friday.

The other Crusaders in the starting line-up for the game at AMI Stadium are halfback Willi Heinz, who will make his debut as captain, hooker Ben Funnell, blindside flanker Luke Whitelock, No8 Jordan Taufua, first-five Tyler Bleyendaal and centre Adam Whitelock. Wing Patrick Osborne is back from Chiefs duty and former All Blacks halfback Andy Ellis is on the reserves bench.

George Whitelock is having a rest, with Dominic Bird (pectoral), Corey Flynn (knee), Robbie Fruean (heart surgery), Nasi Manu (foot), Johnny McNicholl (leg), Colin Slade (hamstring), Codie Taylor (pectoral) and Tom Taylor (knee) all unavailable.

Four players - Matt Symons, Milford Keresoma, Rob Thompson and Jamie Verran - will make their first starts for Canterbury. Sione Faletau, Richie Mo'unga and Marty Swart may also get their first Canterbury cap if they come off the bench.

Head coach Scott Robertson said: "We are fortunate to have good depth in most positions in this squad. We may be missing some of our more experienced players this week, but I am sure that the new players will take this opportunity with both hands and really rise to the challenge.

"In saying that, we are very aware of just how tough this Taranaki side can be. They beat us during pool play last year when the Ranfurly Shield was at stake, and when we squared off against them in the 2012 semifinal they forced us into overtime to secure the win.''

Canterbury, who have won the previous five championships, are notoriously slow starters to the competition.

Canterbury team to play Taranaki at AMI Stadium on Friday, kick off 7.35pm is: Jamie Verran, Patrick Osborne, Adam Whitelock, Rob Thompson, Milford Keresoma, Tyler Bleyendaal, Willi Heinz (c), Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd, Luke Whitelock, Luke Katene, Matt Symons, Nepo Laulala, Ben Funnell, Paea Fa'anunu. Reserves: Marcel Cummings-Toone, Sione Faletau, Joel Everson, Jed Brown, Andy Ellis, Richie Mo'unga, Marty Swart.

- APNZ

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