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Super Rugby Preview: Round 11

Super Rugby Preview: Round 11

Super Rugby has returned in all its glory in 2015 and here we preview the 11th round of games, focusing on the New Zealand franchises with the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour in mind.

Super Rugby has returned in all its glory in 2015 and here we preview the 11th round of games, focusing on the New Zealand franchises with the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour in mind.

The Chiefs will be looking to move to the top of the standings on Friday night when they host Western Force, but they will have to do so without All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden.

Cruden suffered a serious knee injury last round against the Crusaders that looks set to rule him out of the World Cup later this year.

The Chiefs have won six of their eight meetings with the Force and will go top of the standings with a win as their nearest rivals play later in weekend.

Marty McKenzie comes in for Cruden who has been ruled out for the season while prop Siate Tokolahi gets a start in the front row with lock Matt Symons taking over the captaincy duties with Johan Bardoul replacing Liam Messam, who will miss this match due to agreed All Blacks break requirements.

Tim Nanai-Williams moves to the left wing with Bryce Heem starting on the right wing. Ben Tameifuna moves to the bench and is joined by Damian McKenzie.

Friday also sees the in-form Highlanders travel to Canberra to take on the Brumbies but the Dunedin-based side have rested all three of their All Blacks – Aaron Smith, Ben Smith and Malakai Fekitoa. 

And with a mounting injury list, including seven forwards unavailable, the Highlanders will be very much under strength.

The Crusaders may have been beaten by the Chiefs last time out but head coach Todd Blackadder has only made four changes to the starting side that will host the Blues on Saturday.

Ryan Crotty has recovered from a head knock and will start at centre with Dan Carter again deployed at 12, with Kieron Fonotia ready to provide some impact from the bench. Mitchell Drummond will start at halfback with Andy Ellis moving to the replacements bench.

In the forward pack, Codie Taylor and Ben Funnell have rotated so that Taylor starts at hooker this week, as have Owen Franks and Nepo Laulala with Franks starting at tighthead.

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan has rotated his All Blacks with Jerome Kaino, James Parsons and Charles Piutau rested for this weekend and the captaincy handed to former skipper Keven Mealamu.

All Black hooker Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and Charlie Faumuina all come into the starting line up after being named on the bench last weekend.

The All Black starting front row boasts 260 Test caps and 383 Super Rugby games collectively under their belts.

Kaino has been rested as part of the All Blacks rotation after playing in eight of the Blues' nine games meaning Steven Luatua returns to play at No.8.

By contrast Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has included all of his All Blacks for Sunday’s match-up against the Reds in Brisbane despite their loss to the Waratahs last week.

Victor Vito (calf), Dane Coles (elbow) and Blade Thomson (concussion) remain on the injury list but fly-half Beauden Barrett needs two points to surpass David Holwell's record of 676, and become the Hurricanes' leading point scorer of all time.

Elsewhere in Round 11 the Tahs host the Rebels, the Cheetahs visit the Lions and the Stormers welcome the Bulls, while the Sharks have a bye week. 

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