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Jack gets his wish

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Sportal.co.nz     09 Apr 2010     Getty Images

Jack is one of two changes to the Crusaders team which salvaged an injury-time draw against the Hurricanes in Wellington last Friday.

While Jack, 31, has been preferred at lock to promising young Sam Whitelock, his junior by 10 years, Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder had no choice when it came to his halfback selection.

All Blacks halfback Andy Ellis, who was concussed against the Hurricanes, failed the various tests during the week and his starting position has gone to Kahn Fotuali'i with Willi Heinz coming onto the bench.

Otherwise the third-placed Crusaders are unchanged for the top-of-the-table encounter at AMI Stadium, a venue which the Waratahs have won only once, in 2004. They have the record book against them with the Crusaders having won the last seven matches, including two finals, and 12 of their 16 clashes over all.

Jack, whose last start for the Crusaders was in the semi-final against the Bulls in Pretoria three years ago, has returned from overseas anxious to play a part in the All Blacks' World Cup campaign next year.

A wrist operation meant he missed the opening rounds, but he came off the bench against the Lions and the Hurricanes in the last two rounds.

Blackadder admitted after the Crusaders final training today that the 91-match veteran had let it known he wanted to start.

"He's been hounding me for the last three weeks about getting a start - it's such a big game and we're hoping that his experience will come through.

"Sam's been going great guns, but it's time to give Chris Jack a crack at the whip and we believe he's ready for a good 80 minutes.'

Jack and Thorn have played 161 matches for the Crusaders and Blackadder said the 'two old men were quite excited about putting their arms around each other again.'

"They're both good to go and that's great to see. We've got a lot of experience there with Brad and Chris and now we want to see it unleashed.'

Jack said that while he had wanted a start earlier he realised he was up against stiff competition in All Blacks Thorn and Isaac Ross and highly promising Whitelock.

"I would have loved to start a long time ago but Sam has been playing so well. I'm very excited starting this week as the Waratahs are at the top of the table and it's a very important game for us.'

Although Whitelock did the lineout calling for the Crusaders, Jack has not been given that duty - the job going to No. 8 Kieran Read, who will play his 50th game for the Crusaders.

Blackadder said the Crusaders needed to lift a cog and bring more intensity to their game if they were to topple the competition front-runners.

"There's a reason why they are number one - they're the most patient team with the ball in hand. They've created the most phases out of all the teams and end up scoring tries. They've got good firepower and play their percentages well.

"They play with width and put kicks in behind and it's really hard to stop and turn around. We want to take the Waratahs on at the breakdown and at the contact areas which you've just got to dominate these days,' Blackadder said.