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."
Fri 29th May - Overall Group
Crusaders35 - 18Hurricanes
Brumbies22 - 16Bulls
Sharks25 - 21Melbourne Rebels
Sat 30th May - Overall Group
Highlanders36 - 9Chiefs
Western Force10 - 32Reds
Stormers42 - 12Cheetahs
Lions27 - 22Waratahs
Fri 5th Jun - Overall Group
Hurricanes0 - 0Highlanders
Western Force0 - 0Brumbies
Sat 6th Jun - Overall Group
Melbourne Rebels0 - 0Bulls
Blues0 - 0Crusaders
Reds0 - 0Chiefs
Cheetahs0 - 0Waratahs
Stormers0 - 0Lions
Fri 12th Jun - Overall Group
Blues0 - 0Highlanders
Melbourne Rebels0 - 0Western Force
Sat 13th Jun - Overall Group
Brumbies0 - 0Crusaders
Chiefs0 - 0Hurricanes
Waratahs0 - 0Reds
Bulls0 - 0Cheetahs
Sharks0 - 0Stormers
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