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Crusaders shuffle backline

Thursday, March 13, 2014

WELLINGTON - The Crusaders have restored Israel Dagg and Colin Slade to their customary positions in a reshuffled backline to face the Melbourne Rebels tomorrow.

There are three starting changes for the game in Melbourne as the 14th-placed Crusaders seek a spark to their season which has been lacking.

An All Blacks-laden side lost their first two games before scraping to a 14-13 win over the Stormers in Christchurch on Saturday.

Coach Todd Blackadder made seven starting changes for that game but his tinkering this week is mostly through positional switches.

Hooker Ben Funnell starts in place of the injured Corey Flynn (fractured eye socket) and Andy Ellis is at halfback for Willi Heinz (calf) while right wing Nafi Tuitavake returns from a hamstring injury, ultimately resulting in centre Rey Lee-Lo being dropped. The five other players in the starting backline all wear different numbers to last week.

Dagg is shifted from wing back to his favoured fullback role, sparking a domino effect for three other All Blacks. Slade moves from 15 to 10, Tom Taylor from 10 to 12 and Ryan Crotty from 12 to 13.

Three new faces are on the bench, including Fijian outside back Nemani Nadolo, in line for his Crusaders debut.

The others are halfback Mitchell Drummond and hooker Codie Taylor.

The Rebels opened their campaign with a 35-14 home win over the Cheetahs before suffering a 32-7 humbling at the hands of the Western Force in Perth last weekend.

Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Nafi Tuitavake, Ryan Crotty, Tom Taylor, Johnny McNicholl, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (capt), Matt Todd, Luke Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Tim Perry, Nepo Laulala, Dominic Bird, Jordan Taufua, Mitchell Drummond, Kieron Fonotia, Nemani Nadolo.

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