6 Jul 2012

All Blacks return for vital Crusaders clash

12:15 pm on 6 July 2012

The Crusaders will be hoping to secure a spot in the Super Rugby playoffs with a win tonight over competition leaders the Chiefs, when the two sides meet in Hamilton.

The Crusaders' All Blacks, Dan Carter, Kieran Read and Israel Dagg are back from injury for the must-win game, while the Chiefs have strengthened their pack with Sam Cane and Sona Taumalolo starting.

Alex Bradley will replace the injured Chiefs No.8 Kane Thompson.

The Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder says there are three factors motivating his players: keeping their playoff hopes alive, avenging their loss to the Chiefs earlier in the season when the Crusaders set piece struggled, and making up for their loss to the Hurricanes last weekend.

Meanwhile, the Highlanders will be mostly playing for pride when they take on the defending Super Rugby champions the Queensland Reds tonight in Brisbane.

Jamie Joseph's southern men are all but out of finals contention but will be hoping to improve on their narrow defeat last week at the hands of the Chiefs.

The All Black hooker Andrew Hore is in the starting line-up while Mike Delaney takes over at No.10.

Tamati Ellison has been sidelined with injury as has the Reds and Wallaby winger Digby Ioane, who's suffering from pneumonia.