Bower to make return from injury for Crusaders

George Bower

He will share the front row with hooker George Bell, also on the recovery road after a broken ankle, and tighthead prop Owen Franks, the 153-game veteran who has returned to the side for the first time since 2019.

Tom Christie, Dominic Gardiner and Cullen Grace are the loose forward trio for the game.

Taha Kemara has been given the first chance to stake a claim for the first five-eighths position, while former Wales international Leigh Halfpenny will start at fullback.

Former Blues and Moana Pasifika midfield back Levi Aumua will make his first appearance for the side at centre, outside All Blacks second five-eighths Dallas McLeod.

Former Tasman and Chiefs midfield back Alex Nankivell will be a familiar face for the Crusaders.

Nankivell joined the Irish club earlier this season after a 70-game career with the Chiefs and 81 games for Tasman. He played five games for the Māori All Blacks and four for the All Blacks XV.

He will play outside Irish Test player Joey Carbery, who is returning from a wrist injury for his first game since October.

However, former Crusaders prop Oli Jager, who returned to Ireland last year, will miss the game due to an injury.

Alex Kendellen will captain Munster for the first time. Three players from their Academy will also start, including Ruadhan Quinn, the province's youngest player in the professional era at 18 when he debuted last season.


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