Thursday, May 12, 2011

Richie McCaw and Dan Carter back in synch

The Dan 'n Richie show will hit the field for the first time this season as the Crusaders look to make it two from two in South Africa against the dangerous Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

The return of the Crusaders' star duo of skipper Richie McCaw and playmaker Dan Carter will come as a major relief for Todd Blackadder as he deals with the latest injury fallout that saw four players invalided out of their tour following the epic 20-14 victory over the Stormers.

The Cheetahs match early on Sunday morning (AEST) shapes as a potential banana skin clash for the Crusaders as they look to consolidate their spot at the top end of the competition standings.

McCaw was scheduled to make his first start of the season after prolonged foot problems against the Stormers, but was a late withdrawal after suffering a head knock in his bench appearance against the Force.

Carter has has not played since injuring his hamstring in the match against the Sharks at Twickenham on March 27.

Their presence will add a steadying influence to a side that has a band-aid look about it with a major backline reshuffle forced by the Cape Town injuries.

Also back from injury is powerhouse prop Ben Franks (lower back), who left the field against the Force and wasn't available for last week's Stormers match. Franks starts at loosehead prop, with the in-form Wyatt Crockett taking his turn on the bench in Blackadder's three-way front-row rotation.

With Kahn Fotuali'I, Israel Dagg, Sean Maitland and Adam Whitelock all back in Christchurch rehabbing injuries from the Stormers match, Blackadder has had to make a major rejig of his backline.

Willi Heinz starts at halfback, replacing Fotuali'I (knee) and Tom Marshall slots in at fullback for Dagg (thigh).

Ryan Crotty comes into the midfield outside Sonny Bill Williams, with Robbie Fruean moving to the right wing to replace Maitland (foot). It will be Crotty's first inclusion in the match-day squad this season.

Auckland fullback Brent Ward, who was called into the squad this week, is on the reserves bench, as is halfback Steve Alfeld, a Crusaders wider training group member.
Blackadder said this week was about making the most efficient use of the resources available.

"We have managed all the players carefully this week due to the tough nature of last week's match, but we expect everyone to be ready for this tough challenge against the Cheetahs," he said.
"Our new squad members have slotted in well and we know they will do the job for us."
Crotty, Alfeld, Ward and Crusaders wider training group member Tom Taylor joined the squad this week after the injured quartet returned home to Christchurch.

Andy Ellis (thumb), Brad Thorn (calf) and Sam Whitelock (ankle) also remain on the injured list.
The Cheetahs smashed the Lions 53-19 in Jo'burg last weekend after toppling the Brumbies 47-36 in Bloem the week before, and will be looking to make it three wins in a row against a Crusaders side that just may be slightly vulnerable.

The best two players in world rugby pumped to be back in action may have something to say about that.
Marc Hinton May 12, 2011 - 11:48AM

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