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Todd retains front trio

Friday, May 30, 2014

CHRISTCHURCH- The Crusaders coaching staff had kept faith in a relatively inexperienced front row for the Super Rugby clash with the Western Force in Christchurch.

Eyebrows were raised last week when coach Todd Blackadder relegated the All Blacks combination of Wyatt Crockett, Corey Flynn and Owen Franks to the bench against the Highlanders.

He replaced them with loosehead prop Tim Perry, hooker Ben Funnell and tighthead Nepo Laulala.

Blackadder had wanted fresh energy, enthusiasm and hunger.

He got it from the revamped front row, with Perry and Laulala both scoring their first try for the Crusaders in the thrilling 32-30 win over the Highlanders.

Blackadder said the trio's retention to face the Force on Friday night was a reflection of their efforts in Dunedin.

"They came out of the blocks and did a great job for us and we're rewarding them with a start again."

The third-placed Crusaders had made just one change to that team with captain Kieran Read, recovered from concussion and a sinus attack, coming in for Luke Whitelock at No.8.

Read's last game was against the Chiefs in Hamilton on April 19 when he suffered a head knock.

"He gives good direction and brings a lot of energy around the field," he said.

The bearded Perry is well aware of the strong defensive record of the Force this season only the Waratahs and the Sharks have conceded fewer points.

While he is unfamiliar with his front row opponents, he had been doing his homework.

Perry said the Crusaders acknowledged their home record of three wins and three losses was well below what the team and their supporters demanded.

"There's been a big focus on that," he said.

"The record is not what it should be and we want to put on a really good performance for our fans."

The fourth-placed Force, who are a point behind the Crusaders, won 16-14 when the teams met last year in Perth.

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