Super Rugby Round 14 - Crusaders v Blues
Kieran Read bolsters Crusaders
ESPN Staff
May 16, 2013
New Zealand's Kieran Read crashes over, Italy v New Zealand, Stadio Olimpico, Italy, November 17, 2012
Kieran Read is looking to build his fitness to lead the All Blacks © Getty Images

Crusaders captain Kieran Read has been recalled for the key Super Rugby match against the Blues at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday.

Read has missed six Super Rugby games after injuring a toe ligament against the Southern Kings in round six, but he has trained strongly this week and returns as the only change to the starting line-up that defeated the Brumbies two weeks ago before the bye.

Read reclaims the captaincy from George Whitelock and replaces Luke Whitelock, who drops to the bench as the sixth-placed Crusaders host the fifth-placed Blues.

Read, 27, now has four games to prove his fitness before All Blacks selectors confirm their squad for the three-Test series against France. Read is expected to be named captain in the absence of Richie McCaw, who is nearing the end of a six-month break from rugby. Read captained New Zealand when McCaw missed the Test against Italy in Rome last November.

"The toe is feeling really good and I can't wait until I get back out there," Read said. "The body is in good shape after not having had the knocks the other boys have taken. It's not about easing back in, it's about going out and playing like I always do and making sure I lead the side as well as I can."

Read knows what is expected of him: "I'll try and add a bit more sparkle on attack in terms of directness and ball-carrying to give the boys a bit of go-forward. The team is in pretty good shape now, but I know we're in a spot where we can't rest on our laurels. We have to keep pushing because it [Blues] is a quality outfit."

The Crusaders have not lost to the Blues in Christchurch since 2004 and the northerners visit last year resulted in a record 59-12 drubbing. But Read recognises this year's Blues team is a different beast from that of 2012. "They've got the same talented players and I guess some superstars in the backline and in the forwards, but the way they've played together is commendable which shows they've got a good system up there," he said. "You're not going to get a Blues team that will roll over any more, they'll stick at it."

Crusaders: Tom Taylor; Tom Marshall, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Zac Guildford; Dan Carter, Andy Ellis; Kieran Read (captain), Matt Todd, George Whitelock; Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano; Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Replacements: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Dominic Bird, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Adam Whitelock, Israel Dagg.

© ESPN Australia / New Zealand with Sportal

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