Carter, Dagg, Read wheeled out by Crusaders
Read, Dagg clearedMATT MARKHAM
All Blacks star Dan Carter returns at first five-eighth for the Crusaders when they tackle the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday.
Carter has recovered sufficiently from a hamstring injury which kept him out of the 23-22 loss to the Hurricanes on Saturday.
The champion playmaker's vision, defence and leadership were clearly missing at AMI Stadium last weekend and he will be a welcome return as he squares off with rising All Blacks first five-eighth Aaron Cruden.
Carter will be joined this week by Kieran Read (concussion) and Israel Dagg (sprained ankle), who also return to the starting line up for the all-important clash.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder was pleased to have the full complement of his side back in action.
"The news was really encouraging earlier in the week that they would all be fit to play this week so we counted on that and it's great that they have come through,'' he said.
"We really needed them to with such a big game this week.
"We've narrowed everything down to the focus that we are playing the best team in the competition and they deserve a lot of respect.''
Carter's return pushes Tom Taylor back to the reserves bench this week and Sean Maitland suffers the same fate in replace of Dagg.
With Read jumping onto the back of the scrum again, captain Richie McCaw slots back into his favoured No 7 position with Matt Todd pushed to the reserves.
Blackadder's only other change to the starting line up is the Franks brothers, Owen and Ben, claiming starting spots. Owen's promotion means Wyatt Crockett drops to provide cover from the bench.
The Franks brothers have been frothing at the mouth all week about getting even with a Chiefs front row which caused havoc when the two sides met in round three when the Chiefs were 24-19 victors.
"They really put us under pressure and disrupted us through their scrum last time we played," Ben Franks said.
"It was a really good tactic which worked really well for them
"Our challenge is to go their and put a good performance together out on the park this week.''
The Crusaders need a victory this weekend to enhance their chances of claiming one of the three wild card spots available in the playoffs.
Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Adam Whitelock, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Zac Guildford, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, George Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Ben Franks, Corey Flynn, Owen Franks. Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Wyatt Crockett, Tom Donnelly, Matt Todd, Willi Heinz, Tom Taylor, Sean Maitland.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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