INTERNATIONAL

Sam Whitelock back for Crusaders ahead of Super Rugby Pacific final

Crusaders are preparing for a massive clash in front of a full house at Eden Park on Saturday, when they take on the Blues in the highly-anticipated Final of Super Rugby Pacific set for 10:05 East African Time.

Sam Whitelock’s return from a thumb injury is the only change to Head Coach Scott Robertson’s starting lineup against the Blues, while Quinten Strange has earned a spot on the bench ahead of young lock, Zach Gallagher.

With confirmation from the SANZAAR Judicial Committee yesterday that blindside flanker Pablo Matera has been cleared to play in the Final, Robertson hasn’t been forced to make any further changes to his forward pack, and the backline is consistent following last week’s impressive Semi-Final effort.

“As far as Finals go, it doesn’t get any more exciting than taking on the Blues at a packed-out Eden Park,” Robertson said.

“I’m proud of this group and the care they’ve shown this week to put themselves in a position to go and put a great performance on the field on Saturday night. We had a few sore bodies following the huge defensive effort last week, but everyone has come through the week really well and excitement is building towards Saturday night.

“We play for these games and the opportunity to represent the Crusaders region on the big stage – we know it’s going to be another step up but we’re really embracing the challenge in front of us.”

Saturday’s fixture will be the third final between the Blues and Crusaders in Super Rugby history. The Crusaders won their inaugural Final in 1998, while the Blues won in 2003.

Crusaders squad: 1. George Bower 2. Codie Taylor (VC) 3. Oli Jager 4. Scott Barrett (C) 5. Sam Whitelock 6. Pablo Matera 7. Tom Christie 8. Cullen Grace 9. Bryn Hall 10. Richie Mo’unga 11. Leicester Fainga’anuku 12. David Havili (VC) 13. Jack Goodhue 14. Sevu Reece 15. Will Jordan

RESERVES: 16. Brodie McAlister 17. Tamaiti Williams 18. Fletcher Newell 19. Quinten Strange 20. Corey Kellow 21. Mitch Drummond 22. Braydon Ennor 23. George Bridge

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