ABs skipper Kieran Read set to make first appearance in over fourth months
Kieran Read's much anticipated, and rare, appearance for the University club is expected to coincide with Crusaders team-mate Richie Mo'unga getting a run for Linwood on Saturday.
All Blacks captain and No 8 Read, until now unavailable because of wrist surgery over the off-season, is likely to play 40 minutes when University meet Linwood at Linfield in Christchurch.
The most recent episode of an All Blacks captain representing his club was when Richie McCaw had a run for Christchurch in 2013.
Read, who hasn't played since he led the All Blacks to their 24-19 win over France in Paris on November 26, will join his new team-mates for a training on Thursday night, although it won't be the first meet-and-greet session.
Last week he and injured All Blacks and Crusaders team-mate Israel Dagg, who will spend another month recovering from surgery on the knee he injured against the Reds on March 11, bowled along to a practice and later handed out the jerseys to the players.
"They were actively involved in the training, and given they have a lot more knowledge than what we (the coaches) have they had a lot of input and modified some activities," assistant coach Sean Lees said. "The boys are really, really excited at the prospect of playing with him."
Former All Blacks halfback Andy Ellis, who has retired from first-class action in New Zealand and will return to Japan later this year, has hinted he would like to have a run for his University club this year but Lees said there was no chance of him linking with his good mate Read this weekend.
Mo'unga hasn't played since having an operation on his left hand on February 26, a result of him fracturing a bone in the first-round match against the Brumbies.
The first five-eighth will aim to get some contact, and be available for the Crusaders' next match against the Sunwolves in Christchurch on April 14.
FIELD ATTRACT WALLABIES
Given the weather forecast is promising, a decent crowd is expected to witness Read's comeback.
Linfield's grounds, upgraded prior to the 2011 World Cup to ensure visiting teams could be guaranteed an excellent surface, are among the best in the city.
Clearly the Aussies are keen. In the lead-up to the test against the All Blacks in Dunedin they will stay in Christchurch, train at Linfield and fly south the day before the game.
ALL BLACKS TRAINING CAMP
The All Blacks are also expected to have a training camp in Christchurch on August 1-3, as they prepare for the Rugby Championship.
If any New Zealand teams are in the Super Rugby final, to be played on August 5, their international players will clearly have more important business to attend to.
It is understood the All Blacks' first-choice venue is Rugby Park in Christchurch - the Crusaders' home base. If the Crusaders are in the final, though, they get first dibs. That means the All Blacks would do their stuff at Linfield.
SUNWOLVES CHALLENGING SCHEDULE
The Sunwolves will soon embark on one of Super Rugby's greatest treks after being lobbed a punishing mid-season travel schedule. After playing the Bulls in Tokyo this weekend, they will stopover in Auckland before transferring to Christchurch ahead of the match against the Crusaders.
Then they head to Invercargill to play the Highlanders on April 22. Following their brief stay in the deep south they will relocate to Wellington for a few days, fly north to Hamilton to play the Chiefs and then wing their way to Buenos Aires to face the Jaguares. Exhausting isn't it? Just reading it makes you want to have a lie down.
NO ANSWER IN SIGHT
The Super Rugby saga continues to drag on. Three teams are expected be chopped, but which ones? We don't know. So the waiting game continues.
But let's be positive here. At least talk about further expansion to the 18-team competition has evaporated.
Less than 12 months ago we were being the prospect of expansion was inevitable, an economic necessity. Not, now. Sanzaar can't bury the unfortunate clubs fast enough.