Crusaders captain Scott Barrett has been forced to withdraw from the match against the Chiefs on “medical grounds”.
The Crusaders and Chiefs have made late changes to their teams ahead of the Super Rugby Pacific match in Christchurch on Saturday night.
The Crusaders have lost captain and lock Scott Barrett from the starting lineup. Brodie McAlister, Tamaiti Williams and Mitch Dunshea have also been removed from the reserves.
They were depleted by Covid, but the Blues had too much power for the Highlanders.
All been forced to withdraw on “medical grounds”, a Crusaders spokesperson said.
Hooker Codie Taylor has been named skipper in the absence of Barrett, who has been replaced by Quinten Strange in the starting XV.
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On the bench Shilo Klein has replaced hooker McAlister and prop Abrahan Pole has been recruited to fill the vacancy created by Williams’ departure. George Bower has been listed in the No 18 jersey, with Pole taking Bower’s No 17.
Dominic Gardiner will provide cover at lock following the promotion of Strange to the run-on team.
The Chiefs have replaced left wing Etene Nanai-Seturo with Alex Nankivell for an undisclosed reason. Tom Florence has been confirmed to be on the bench in the No 20 jersey.
The Chiefs traveled south with an under-strength side, due to an outbreak of Covid-19 in the squad.
On Thursday Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan revealed they have one positive Covid case in the squad, with another half dozen players having also not been considered for the round-four contest, in order to try and limit the disruption somewhat.
“But because we took the very safe measure of having them isolate away from the group, it meant that they missed Monday’s and Tuesday’s training, so in order to prepare the team as best as possible to go down and play the Crusaders, we felt it was better that we just selected the team in advance of them being cleared,” McMillan said.
McMillan would not name which players were among the seven, but his 23 has been shorn of a few experienced operators, for what is essentially the toughest fixture on the calendar – the Crusaders away from home.
Those players which took the park in either of the opening two games against the Highlanders and Blues, but won’t feature at Orangetheory Stadium are props Sione Mafileo and Atu Moli, locks Josh Lord and Laghlan McWhannell, halfback and co-captain Brad Weber, first five-eighth Josh Ioane, winger Jonah Lowe and utility back Chase Tiatia.
Those listed as unavailable for selection were prop Reuben O’Neill, lock/loose forwards Mitch Brown, loosies Simon Parker and Luke Jacobson, first five-eighth/fullback Kaleb Trask and midfielder Gideon Wrampling.
The Crusaders, despite the disruption of losing All Blacks second rower Barrett, remain the favorite to beat the Chiefs. The home side is unbeaten after three games, and will field a near-full strength team to start the fixture.
Covid-19 has forced the Hurricanes-Moana Pasifika game, scheduled for this weekend, to be postponed.
The Blues were also forced to make late changes due to players being unavailable ahead of the match against the Highlanders in Auckland on Friday night. The Blues have confirmed there were positive Covid-19 cases in their squad.
Among those to withdraw was star No 10 Beauden Barrett. The Blues beat the Highlanders 32-20.
On Wednesday the Highlanders there are Covid-19 cases in the team. But they would not identify which players were affected.