20 Jul 2017

All Blacks return for Southern derby

6:27 pm on 20 July 2017

The All Black front row return to starting line-up for their Super Rugby quarter-final clash against the Highlanders in Christchurch on Saturday.

All Blacks Owen Franks, Codie Taylor and Joe Moody

All Blacks Owen Franks, Codie Taylor and Joe Moody Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Owen Franks are among five returning All Blacks named by coach Scott Robertson in the Crusaders side.

The trio were rested following the three- Test Lions series for the Crusaders 31- 22 loss to the Hurricanes.

Ryan Crotty is back from the hamstring injury which sidelined him for the last two Tests in the Lions series, and will slot in at inside centre.

Captain Sam Whitelock will start at lock after coming off the bench in the Hurricanes game

Robertson said the return of the experienced Crotty would be "huge" for the Crusaders.

"His ability to understand the game and make good calls, and defensively he's as sharp as you get, so he's a big part of our team and we welcome him back," he said.

Meanwhile Highlanders coach Tony Brown has opted for the tried-and-true in naming his team for the Southern derby.

Ben Smith (L) and Aaron Smith

Ben Smith (L) and Aaron Smith celebrate a try. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Highlanders side sees the return of captain Ben Smith and Aaron Smith to a back line which features Richard Buckman on the left wing and the hard-running Rob Thompson at inside centre.

Brown has also elected to go with a six-two forward/back split on the reserves bench, perhaps anticipating an intense forward battle.

He has no illusions about the challenge ahead, particularly after two close encounters in conference play.

The Crusaders won both, the first 30-27 in a second-round clash in Dunedin and the second 25-22 in round 15 in Christchurch.

"It's going to be an epic encounter, playing the New Zealand conference winners at home," Brown said.

"It's obviously an extremely tough assignment against an experienced and well performed team; however, our guys are very excited by the challenge they face."

The teams for Saturday's game:

Highlanders: Ben Smith (captain), Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Rob Thompson, Richard Buckman, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Luke Whiteock, James Lentjes, Liam Squire, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Siate Tokolahi, Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown. Reserves: Ash Dixon , Aki Seiuli, Siosuia Halanukonuka, Alex Ainley, Gareth Evans, Elliot Dixon, Kayne Hammington, Marty Banks.

Crusaders: David Havili, Israel Dagg, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Seta Tamanivalu, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, George Bridge.