Kieran Read ready to return for the Crusaders

Colin Slade shows his courage on a scything run against the Highlanders in round 19 of Super Rugby.
Colin Slade shows his courage on a scything run against the Highlanders in round 19 of Super Rugby.
Crusaders wing Nemani Nadolo on the charge against the Blues at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
Crusaders wing Nemani Nadolo on the charge against the Blues at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
Crusaders wing Nemani Nadolo fights for the ball in midair with Highlanders opposite Richard Buckman.
Crusaders wing Nemani Nadolo fights for the ball in midair with Highlanders opposite Richard Buckman.
Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty has a cut at the Blues' line with Andy Ellis in support.
Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty has a cut at the Blues' line with Andy Ellis in support.
New Zealand's top first five eighth Dan Carter on the break against the Highlanders.
New Zealand's top first five eighth Dan Carter on the break against the Highlanders.
Nemani Nadolo crashes over the line for the Crusaders under pressure from a stern Blues defence.
Nemani Nadolo crashes over the line for the Crusaders under pressure from a stern Blues defence.
Israel Dagg shows his deft touch, unloading the ball while aerial in the tackle of Highlanders wing Patrick Osbourne.
Israel Dagg shows his deft touch, unloading the ball while aerial in the tackle of Highlanders wing Patrick Osbourne.
A Crusaders horseman spurs cheers from the Christchurch crowd ahead of their clash with the Highlanders.
A Crusaders horseman spurs cheers from the Christchurch crowd ahead of their clash with the Highlanders.
Blues star Ma'a Nonu is tackled by Dan Carter of the Crusaders during their round 18 Super Rugby match in Christchurch.
Blues star Ma'a Nonu is tackled by Dan Carter of the Crusaders during their round 18 Super Rugby match in Christchurch.
Andy Ellis, centre, of the Crusaders is tackled by Blues players Tony Woodcock (left) and Luke Braid (right) during his side's win in Christchurch.
Andy Ellis, centre, of the Crusaders is tackled by Blues players Tony Woodcock (left) and Luke Braid (right) during his side's win in Christchurch.
Crusaders lock Dominic Bird powers through a number of would-be Blues defenders at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
Crusaders lock Dominic Bird powers through a number of would-be Blues defenders at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
Jerome Kaino of the Blues is tackled by Andy Ellis of the Crusaders during their round 18 Super Rugby match in Christchurch.
Jerome Kaino of the Blues is tackled by Andy Ellis of the Crusaders during their round 18 Super Rugby match in Christchurch.
Nemani Nadolo of the Crusaders dives over to score a try against the Blues in round 18.
Nemani Nadolo of the Crusaders dives over to score a try against the Blues in round 18.
Crusaders second-five Dan Carter is tackled by All Blacks team-mate and Blues prop Tony Woodcock.
Crusaders second-five Dan Carter is tackled by All Blacks team-mate and Blues prop Tony Woodcock.
Ryan Crotty, captain of the Crusaders, is tackled by Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes during their Super Rugby clash at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Ryan Crotty, captain of the Crusaders, is tackled by Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes during their Super Rugby clash at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Andy Ellis of the Crusaders and Dane Coles of the Hurricanes scuffle during their round 17 Super Rugby match.
Andy Ellis of the Crusaders and Dane Coles of the Hurricanes scuffle during their round 17 Super Rugby match.
Dan Carter of the Crusaders looks to make a break against the Hurricanes during his first Super Rugby appearance of the season.
Dan Carter of the Crusaders looks to make a break against the Hurricanes during his first Super Rugby appearance of the season.
Julian Savea celebrates the Hurricanes' win over the Crusaders during their Round 17 Super Rugby match at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Julian Savea celebrates the Hurricanes' win over the Crusaders during their Round 17 Super Rugby match at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders scores a try during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Crusaders.
Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders scores a try during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Crusaders.
Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders celebrates with team mate Israel Dagg after scoring a try during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Crusaders.
Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders celebrates with team mate Israel Dagg after scoring a try during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Crusaders.
Luke Whitelock of the Crusaders breaks away from the defence to score a try during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Crusaders.
Luke Whitelock of the Crusaders breaks away from the defence to score a try during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Crusaders.
Richie McCaw of the Crusaders takes the lineout during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Crusaders.
Richie McCaw of the Crusaders takes the lineout during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Crusaders.
Quade Cooper of the Reds is tackled by Wyatt Crockett of the Crusaders.
Quade Cooper of the Reds is tackled by Wyatt Crockett of the Crusaders.
Nemani Nadolo of the Crusaders dives over to score a try during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Brumbies.
Nemani Nadolo of the Crusaders dives over to score a try during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Brumbies.
Sam Whitelock of the Crusaders is tackled during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Brumbies.
Sam Whitelock of the Crusaders is tackled during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Brumbies.
Colin Slade of the Crusaders kicks a conversion during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Brumbies.
Colin Slade of the Crusaders kicks a conversion during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Brumbies.
Pat McCabe of the Brumbies is tackled by Israel Dagg of the Crusaders.
Pat McCabe of the Brumbies is tackled by Israel Dagg of the Crusaders.
Samuel Whitelock of the Crusaders has a word with a team-mate during the Chiefs and Crusaders Super Rugby match.
Samuel Whitelock of the Crusaders has a word with a team-mate during the Chiefs and Crusaders Super Rugby match.
Willi Heinz of the Crusaders in action during the Chiefs and Crusaders Super Rugby match.
Willi Heinz of the Crusaders in action during the Chiefs and Crusaders Super Rugby match.
Brodie Retallick of the Chiefs and Samuel Whitelock of the Crusaders wrestle off the ball during the Chiefs and Crusaders Super Rugby match.
Brodie Retallick of the Chiefs and Samuel Whitelock of the Crusaders wrestle off the ball during the Chiefs and Crusaders Super Rugby match.
Nemani Nandolo of the Crusaders storms down the sideline during the Chiefs and Crusaders Super Rugby match.
Nemani Nandolo of the Crusaders storms down the sideline during the Chiefs and Crusaders Super Rugby match.
Ryan Crotty swats the Cheetahs defence out of his way in Bloemfontein.
Ryan Crotty swats the Cheetahs defence out of his way in Bloemfontein.
Crusaders captain Kieran Read breaks away from the back of a maul against the Cheetahs.
Crusaders captain Kieran Read breaks away from the back of a maul against the Cheetahs.
Crusaders halfback Willi Heinz floats a pass out in his teams clash with the Cheetahs.
Crusaders halfback Willi Heinz floats a pass out in his teams clash with the Cheetahs.
Crusaders No 10 Colin Slade goes on a run against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Crusaders No 10 Colin Slade goes on a run against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock takes a charge at the Lions defence.
Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock takes a charge at the Lions defence.
George Whitelock and Matt Todd of Crusaders smash Lions No 8 Warren Whitley.
George Whitelock and Matt Todd of Crusaders smash Lions No 8 Warren Whitley.
Nepo Laulala of Crusaders tackling Faf de Klerk of Lions during the teams' clash at Ellis Park.
Nepo Laulala of Crusaders tackling Faf de Klerk of Lions during the teams' clash at Ellis Park.
The Crusaders' Kieron Fonotia and Owen Franks get to grips with Schalk van der Merwe of the Lions.
The Crusaders' Kieron Fonotia and Owen Franks get to grips with Schalk van der Merwe of the Lions.
Wyatt Crockett of the Crusaders tries to offload under pressure from Jeremy Thrush of the Hurricanes.
Wyatt Crockett of the Crusaders tries to offload under pressure from Jeremy Thrush of the Hurricanes.
Ryan Crotty makes a break for the Crusaders against the Hurricanes in Christchurch.
Ryan Crotty makes a break for the Crusaders against the Hurricanes in Christchurch.
Nemani Nadolo makes a charge down the wing for the Crusaders against the Hurricanes.
Nemani Nadolo makes a charge down the wing for the Crusaders against the Hurricanes.
The Crusaders players look dejected after losing to the Hurricanes at the death.
The Crusaders players look dejected after losing to the Hurricanes at the death.
Israel Dagg attempts to get himself out of the grasp of a Melbourne Rebel.
Israel Dagg attempts to get himself out of the grasp of a Melbourne Rebel.
Crusaders Kieran Read (left) and Nafi Tuitavake rush to congratulate hooker Ben Funnell after scoring.
Crusaders Kieran Read (left) and Nafi Tuitavake rush to congratulate hooker Ben Funnell after scoring.
Crusaders first-five Colin Slade fires a pass to his outside backs.
Crusaders first-five Colin Slade fires a pass to his outside backs.
Israel Dagg unleashes a punt downfield.
Israel Dagg unleashes a punt downfield.
Captain Kieran Read chats to his forward pack during a break against the Rebels.
Captain Kieran Read chats to his forward pack during a break against the Rebels.
Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders celebrates the final whistle following his side's comeback win over the Stormers.
Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders celebrates the final whistle following his side's comeback win over the Stormers.
Stormers captain Jean de Villiers and the Crusaders' Kieran Read await a referee's decision during their clash in Christchurch.
Stormers captain Jean de Villiers and the Crusaders' Kieran Read await a referee's decision during their clash in Christchurch.
Sam Whitelock reaches highest to claim lineout ball for the Crusaders against the Chiefs.
Sam Whitelock reaches highest to claim lineout ball for the Crusaders against the Chiefs.
The Crusaders cheerleaders get the crowd going before kick-off against the Stormers.
The Crusaders cheerleaders get the crowd going before kick-off against the Stormers.
Crusaders prop Tim Perry is taken down by Charlie Faumuina.
Crusaders prop Tim Perry is taken down by Charlie Faumuina.
Colin Slade celebrates his first half try against the Blues.
Colin Slade celebrates his first half try against the Blues.
Richie McCaw eyes up a tackle on George Moala before leaving the field injured.
Richie McCaw eyes up a tackle on George Moala before leaving the field injured.
Crusaders Colin Slade (right) and Reynold Lee-Lo fail to secure the ball under pressure from George Moala.
Crusaders Colin Slade (right) and Reynold Lee-Lo fail to secure the ball under pressure from George Moala.
Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg runs at Liam Messam during the season opener.
Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg runs at Liam Messam during the season opener.
The expression of Richie McCaw's face says it all after the Crusaders missed seven penalties in an 18-10 loss to the Chiefs.
The expression of Richie McCaw's face says it all after the Crusaders missed seven penalties in an 18-10 loss to the Chiefs.
Crusaders wing Nafi Tuitavake runs away from Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick.
Crusaders wing Nafi Tuitavake runs away from Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick.
Almost 17,000 Crusaders fans packed into Christchurch Stadium for the season opener.
Almost 17,000 Crusaders fans packed into Christchurch Stadium for the season opener.

Pumping more fury into the Crusaders' backline must surely be a priority this week.

Considering lock Sam Whitelock made the only memorable line break during last weekend's 18-10 loss to the Chiefs, when he scored his side's only try, the Crusaders backs need to somehow add some lightning to their strike plays against the Blues at Eden Park on Friday night.

That the Blues, who were stung 29-21 by the Highlanders last weekend, will be without second five-eighth Ma'a Nonu (not yet fully fit after ankle surgery) and Francis Saili out (out for a month with a foot injury) is some consolation but the Crusaders also have issues of their own with flanker Richie McCaw and midfielder Ryan Crotty in doubt because of calf injuries.

McCaw and Crotty, who had his lower right leg wrapped in a bandage, didn't participate in the team warm-ups yesterday and assistant coach Tabai Matson indicated there was no certainty they would be fit to play the Blues.

"There are clouds over a few people who are in contention - Richie is straining a little bit, he has got a little bruise there and Ryan Crotty is not doing a full training today," Matson said.

"We got dinged up, as they [the Chiefs] did, so we are just taking a few days to recover."

No 8 Kieran Read, who was rested from the Chiefs match, will take over the captaincy from McCaw regardless.

First-five Colin Slade, who missed the Super Rugby opener because of a calf issue, ran freely at training to further alleviate concerns and he appears the leading candidate if they replace Tyler Bleyendaal who missed five penalties against the Chiefs.

If McCaw is ruled out, Matt Todd would slot into the No 7 jersey.

Losing vice-captain Crotty, one of the backline's best performers against the Chiefs, would also be major a blow. If he was unavailable it is likely Tom Taylor would run at second-five alongside centre Reynold Lee-Lo.

Fijian wing Nemani Nadolo remains unavailable because of a medial ligament injury and is unlikely to be available until next week.

Matson said a specialist goal-kicking coach would not be recruited after Bleyendaal and Taylor missed seven penalties between them against the Chiefs.

Despite the Crusaders backs unable to crack the Chiefs' defensive line, Matson also denied hosed down queries about whether their lack of line busts was a concern.

"Not really. When you play the best teams, especially the really good defensive teams, you might get two opportunities," he said. "Probably we took one of them but if we had taken another one we wouldn't be feeling the way we are feeling."

Better execution, he added, would allow his side to build more pressure.

Read hasn't played since the All Blacks' dramatic victory against Ireland in Dublin on November 25.

However, he has been involved in contact training sessions since returning the Crusaders several weeks ago and was emphatic he would have no problems lasting the full 80 minutes in Auckland.

"I'm all set to go, looking forward to it. I'm confident I can go 80. I'm ready to go."

HE'S BACK: Kieran Read will resume the captaincy in his first match of the season against the Blues on Friday night.
HE'S BACK: Kieran Read will resume the captaincy in his first match of the season against the Blues on Friday night.

The Press