Super Rugby leaders forced into changes

Jordie Barrett at outside centre is among the Hurricanes' changes for the clash with the Crusaders

Jordie Barrett will make his maiden first-class appearance at outside centre as his Hurricanes joined the Crusaders in naming a weakened team for their Super Rugby blockbuster.

Injury and suspension has played havoc with the selection of the Kiwi heavyweights for Friday's top-of-the-table match in Christchurch.

At stake is potentially the coveted overall top qualifying spot for the playoffs.

The defending champion Crusaders (10-2) have won their last eight matches, a streak bettered by the 10 successive wins for the 2016 champion Hurricanes (10-1).

The visitors suffered unwelcome news after last week's 38-34 defeat of the Queensland Reds, losing Matt Proctor (sternum) and Vaea Fifita (shoulder).

While Fifita is adequately replaced at lock by Michael Fatialofa, a major reshuffle is needed to cover outside centre Proctor.

A standout at fullback all season, Barrett is handed the unfamiliar No.13 jumper, with Nehe Milner-Skudder shifting to the back and Julian Savea recalled on the right wing.

Jonah Lowe goes on the bench and is poised to make his Super Rugby debut.

Elsewhere, captain Brad Shields returns on the blindside flank and Ngani Laumape is back at inside centre.

The Crusaders look well placed to overcome a mini-crisis at prop.

All Blacks starting pair Owen Franks and Joe Moody are missing through suspension for foul play while Tim Perry suffered a hamstring injury on All Blacks training duty this week.

Michael Ala'alatoa and Wyatt Crockett will start up front and are accomplished performers at Super Rugby level.

Potentially more significant is the absence of concussed All Blacks pair Sam Whitelock and Ryan Crotty.

World-class lock Whitelock, unveiled this week as the All Blacks skipper to face France, is again replaced by Quinten Strange.

Crotty suffered his second head blow of the season in last week's 32-24 win over the Blues. Tim Bateman takes his inside centre spot.

Crusaders: David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Tim Bateman, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd (capt), Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Quinten Strange, Scott Barrett, Michael Ala'alatoa, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Andrew Makalio, Chris King, Donald Brighouse, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Braydon Ennor.

Hurricanes: Nehe Milner-Skudder, Julian Savea, Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Blade Thomson, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields (capt), Sam Lousi, Michael Fatialofa, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Ricky Riccitelli, Toby Smith. Reserves: James O'Reilly, Chris Eves, Ben May, Murray Douglas, Reed Prinsep, Finlay Christie, Ihaia West, Jonah Lowe.