Crusaders hopes for All Blacks reinforcements
Number eight Kieran Read and fullback Israel Dagg are “very likely” to play against the Chiefs in a blockbuster clash that will decide the finest team in the New Zealand Conference for the 2012 Investec Super Rugby season.
For the Crusaders a victory is non-negotiable if they are to again taste Super Rugby Finals Series action, and while they can’t overhaul the Chiefs, they can remind the upstarts from Hamiltons who they are facing in arguably the most important match between kiwi franchises this season.
Read, who has been in the wars this season, suffered head knocks in the first and second tests of the Steinlager Series, and concussion ruled him out of the third test against Ireland in Hamilton, and the Crusaders fixture against the Hurricanes.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder confirmed after watching his team go down to their rivals from the capital that the number eight had said he wanted to start against the top-of-the-table Chiefs – of course pending fitness tests this week.
Blackadder also suggested that Read’s absence was a key factor that allowed the Hurricanes forwards to scrap their way to victory, despite coming up second best statistically in the set pieces.
Dagg injured his ankle in the third test against Ireland, and is expected to come back into the starting side.
All Blacks first five-eighth Dan Carter said he was confident he could return from a hamstring injury, but Blackadder felt it might be too much to expect three All Blacks to return to action.
"I don't think so - he will be really touch and go for this weekend," Blackadder said.
Carter injured his hamstring in the build-up to the third test in Hamilton, only to be replaced in the All Blacks starting line up by Aaron Cruden, who will be a key figure in the battle this weekend.