Marc Hinton April 28, 2011
He's back. All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw will take his place in the Crusaders starting lineup for the first time this season in Saturday night's Super Rugby clash against the Western Force in Perth.
McCaw missed last weekend's shock defeat to the Highlanders in Nelson with a bruised foot after he'd made his first appearance for the year off the bench against the Chiefs in Mount Maunganui. A foot stress fracture had sidelined him for the first two months of the campaign.
But McCaw will lead the Crusaders against the Force providing he gets through today's training run. He has been selected at No 8, replacing Joe Wheeler who has been bracketed on the bench with surprise callup Reuben Thorne.
McCaw will form a mobile loose trio alongside his young protégé Matt Todd and George Whitelock. All Black Kieran Read is on the final week of his designated leave period.
In the front row, Corey Flynn and Ben Franks come in at hooker and prop for Quentin MacDonald and Owen Franks respectively.
Luke Romano, who played almost 60 minutes when coming on for the injured Brad Thorn last weekend, starts at lock alongside Chris Jack.
Sonny Bill Williams returns at second-five ahead of Adam Whitelock, and Sean Maitland comes back to the right wing, replacing Tom Marshall.
It's a much more potent backline than fielded against the Highlanders, and may need to be against a Force side which has won two on the trot.
Willi Heinz is the halfback cover after Andy Ellis broke his thumb against the Highlanders.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said he was expecting a good response from his players following their disappointing effort against the Highlanders.
"It's important that we start our trip with a good performance and I'm sure we'll get that against the Force who always lift for games against the Crusaders," he said.
"Having Richie back is obviously a big boost and he's keen to get stuck in again."
Not considered due to injury were Ellis (thumb), Brad Thorn (calf), Dan Carter (hamstring) and Sam Whitelock (ankle).
The Crusaders' loss in Nelson was just their second of the season and leaves them four points behind the Blues at the top of the New Zealand conference.
The Crusaders have only won once in Perth and last year went down 24-16 to a team they generally struggle against. The match kicks off just after midnight (NZ time).
CRUSADERS: Israel Dagg, Sean Maitland, Robbie Fruean, Sonny Bill Williams, Zac Guildford, Matt Berquist, Kahn Fotuali'I; Richie McCaw (capt), Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Chris Jack, Luke Romano, Ben Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett.
Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Owen Franks, Joe Wheeler / Reuben Thorne, Jonathan Poff, Willi Heinz, Tom Marshall, Adam Whitelock.
on Stuff at http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/super-rugby/4937316/Richie-McCaw-back-against-Western-Force