All Blacks players have returned to strengthen Super Rugby teams The Crusaders and The Highlanders ahead of the quarter final clash this weekend. The Christchurch-based Crusaders have received a boost of five All Blacks stars, including centre Ryan Crotty.
Crotty picked up a hamstring injury in the first test when the All Blacks clashed with the British and Irish Lions. Frontrowers Owen Franks, Joe Moody and Codie Taylor all returned. The trio were rested by the Crusaders in the 31-22 victory against the Hurricanes last week. The trio are expected to add to the selection pool as the Crusaders face The Highlanders after ending the 14 game winning streak of the wellington-based side last week.
Sam Whitelock played from the bench in the game against the Hurricanes, and he is expected to feature in the All Black tight five this week. Crotty would play in centre back capacity so David Havili would play in the full black role after he played centre back last time. Israel Dagg would play in the right wing in a starting line-up filled with All Blacks. Coach Scott Robertson has hailed the return of Crotty who he says has the ability to read games and make good calls, and said he was particularly impressed with his most recent performances – and that he had to buy a ticket to the game through Liverugbytickets.co.uk because there was so much demand from fans to see people like Crotty in action.
The Highlanders welcome back All Black fullback Ben Smith and scrumhalf Aaron Smith to the team. Smith was injured in the first Test in the Lions Tour. Medical test showed that the skipper had vertigo but he is ready to contribute to the Dunedin-based side.
Coach Tony Brown added six forwards and just two backs in his reserves ahead of the epic encounter. Richard Buckman would be playing from the left wing while Rob Thompson would play at inside center.