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Todd rues Pocock's absence

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Sportal.co.nz     13 Jul 2012     Getty Images

Todd would have been on the bench had not inspirational No.8 Kieran Read been ruled out with a rib injury suffered in the win against the Chiefs in Hamilton in round 17, a victory that will earn the Crusaders home advantage for the first week of play-offs if they dispose of the 14th placed Force at AMI Stadium.

Captain Richie McCaw will revert to No.8 allowing Todd to start on the side of the scrum. Pocock's understudy Matt Hodgson is another casualty in the injury-hit Force team which has won only three of its 15 games and has only the Lions, from South Africa, below it on the points table.

"Whenever you get an opportunity to come up against one of the top two flankers in the world it is always good to test yourself against him so it's disappointing he [Pocock] is out, but they've got quite a few good loose forwards so still we be a challenge for us at the breakdown, in the loose, and right across the board really," Todd said after the Crusaders training on Thursday.

Todd recalled the Crusaders leaving it late before overcoming the Force, 42-30, in Perth last year. "We were down with 10 to 15 minutes to go and they scored some good long-range tries off our mistakes. It was one of those games where we felt we were going quite good and you look at the scoreboard and see you are behind.

"They're definitely a dangerous team who can score out of nothing. If you let them in the game you will be in for a hard day so we have to focus on what we're going to do and not give them any chances."

Todd, who since his Crusaders debut last year has played in 31 of the possible 33 matches, said that the win over the Chiefs had installed confidence. "That was definitely a performance we needed at this time of the year, but it doesn't mean it is going to happen again this week.

"We know we have to start again and bring the same attitude. If we lose last week was all for nothing so basically we must win and if we do we know we're back at home next week."

Two Crusaders kingpins, lock Sam Whitelock and centre Robbie Fruean, have been given a chance to freshen up but will be expected to make an impact off the bench. Tom Donnelly replaces Whitelock and Adam Whitelock will take Fruean's place allowing Sean Maitland to return to the right wing for the first time in eight weeks.

The Crusaders have found the Force a pesky rival in their short history with the Australian team winning one and drawing two of their six encounters. The last time the Force played in Christchurch it drew, 23-23, in 2009 and only Adam Whitelock and Ryan Crotty in the backs and George Whitelock, Owen Franks and Wyatt Crockett in the pack will back up from that Crusaders team.

Crusaders: 1.Ben Franks, 2.Corey Flynn, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Luke Romano, 5.Tom Donnelly, 6.George Whitelock, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Richie McCaw (c), 9.Andy Ellis, 10.Dan Carter, 11.Zac Guildford, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Adam Whitelock, 14.Sean Maitland, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Quentin MacDonald, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Sam Whitelock, 19.Luke Whitelock, 20.Willi Heinz, 21.Tom Taylor, 22.Robbie Fruean