Kieran Read could make club rugby returnSave
By Patrick McKendry
Kieran Read could play a rare game for his University club before returning to the Crusaders next month.
All Blacks captain Read, recovering from wrist surgery over the summer, is on track to return for the red and blacks against the Sunwolves in Christchurch on April 14, but could turn out for his club the weekend before that when the Crusaders have a bye.
"We have to make sure he's ready to go and he's fully healed and refreshed," Crusaders assistant coach Leon MacDonald said today. "He's got a big year ahead of him and we want to get the best out of him."
Read, who will lead the All Blacks against the touring British and Irish Lions in June, has been a fixture on the sideline for the Crusaders during their incredible run of comeback victories. He watched at AMI Stadium as his side won their latest, against the Blues, after trailing by 19 points with 33 minutes remaining.
In their previous two matches they came back from a 21-point deficit to the Highlanders in Dunedin and a 17-point deficit to the Reds in Brisbane. In round one they held off a fast-finishing Brumbies, so while they are undefeated, they have yet to put in an 80-minute performance to be proud of.
"I suppose the upside is we've shown a lot of character to come back and perform really well under pressure and stick to our task and not lose belief," MacDonald said about his team's 33-24 win against the Blues.
"It's pleasing because we're winning the games but we don't what that happening every week. We realise we've probably used up all of our free lives."
Asked whether the Crusaders could look to rest a few players in their next match against the Force at AMI Stadium on Friday, MacDonald said: "Given our performances over the last three weeks I don't think we're in a position to take anybody lightly. We're really searching for an 80-minute performance. That's a priority and we're at home. We had a stunning crowd in [for Blues] and we want to put on a performance that they can be really proud of."
Apart from their turning the fightback from a seemingly impossible position into an art-form, the Crusaders have shown resilience in overcoming injury.
They were without fullback Israel Dagg, who underwent knee surgery today but expects to return in six weeks, wings Seta Tamanivalu (hamstring) and Digby Ioane (hand), and centre Jack Goodhue, who was a late withdrawal from the Blues match due to a calf injury.
Losing first-five Richie Mo'unga to a hand injury after the win over the Brumbies was a serious blow but Mitch Hunt has stepped up and performed with composure in his first season at this level.
"It just means we're not as vulnerable to injuries as some teams who roll the same team can be," MacDonald said. "It gives us depth and confidence - the fact we can beat a New Zealand team with probably seven or eight of our starters out was a real credit to our guys."
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