Super Rugby match preview: Crusaders v Blues
Last Updated: 18/05/13 8:36am
Crusaders and Blues will be out to boost their play-off prospects when the pair meet at the Christchurch Stadium in New Zealand.
The Crusaders are boosted by the return of captain Kieran Read for the clash while Israel Dagg must again make do with a place on the bench.
Read, who has been sidelined with a toe injury for seven weeks, returns to the number eight jersey so young Luke Whitelock will be a substitute
The showdown will be a special occasion for Andy Ellis as he seals his 100th Super Rugby cap.
Ellis started his Super Rugby career in 2006 and has since clocked up eight seasons with the Crusaders, 26 All Blacks test caps, two Super Rugby titles, three ITM Cup titles and a World Cup.
Blues boss Sir John Kirwan has recalled several experienced campaigners for Saturday's clash.
Test veteran Keven Mealamu, who has 102 caps to his name, has overcome a calf strain to start at hooker, while Culum Retallick and Luke Braid also return to bolster a powerful forward pack.
Despite being named in the All Blacks training squad earlier this week, inside centre Francis Saili makes way for Jackson Willison who is back to full fitness after suffering an ankle sprain against the Reds in Round 11.
Prop Sam Prattley, called into the squad midway through the season to replace the injured Charlie Faumuina, will have the chance to make his Blues debut after being named on the bench in place of Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
James Parsons has failed to shrug off a neck injury and will sit this week out as Quentin MacDonald is named as the reserve hooker.
Crusaders: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Adam Whitelock, 22 Israel Dagg.
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (c), 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Francis Saili.
What they said...
Blues boss Sir John Kirwan on Crusaders
"They deserve everything they've had. They've been a fantastic franchise and have led the way for many of us and now it's time for us to get down there and earn some respect back and to do that we need to play for 80 minutes and be in a real battle.
"For me it's a Test match and that's how it should be. I can't wait, I'm really excited and the players are excited too. We're underdogs, going down there with everything against us - it doesn't get any better than that."