Crusaders boosted as All Blacks star returns from long injury lay-off

David Skippers
Crusaders star Ethan Blackadder on the charge

Crusaders and All Blacks back-row Ethan Blackadder.

All Blacks loose forward Ethan Blackadder is set to return to action for the Crusaders after being named in their starting line-up for Friday’s clash with the Waratahs in Sydney.

The 29-year-old has recovered from a calf injury and will make his first appearance of the season on the blindside flank.

Only change to starting XV

His return to action is the only change to the Crusaders‘ starting line-up after their victory over the Chiefs in their Round Six Super Rugby Pacific clash in Christchurch a fortnight ago.

“We all know the quality Ethan brings, tremendous player who adds a lot of spark around the group,” said Crusaders head coach Rob Penney.

Joining Blackadder in the back-row is openside flanker Tom Christie, who continues as captain, and number eight Cullen Grace.

Quinten Strange and Jamie Hannah continue as the starting locks while in the front-row George Bell packs down at hooker alongside All Blacks props Fletcher Newell and George Bower.

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Amongst the backs, Riley Hohepa starts again at fly-half with Noah Hotham inside him at scrum-half with Dallas McLeod and Levi Aumua continuing their midfield partnership.

The rest of the backline sees Chay Fihaki continuing at full-back, while Sevu Reece and Johnny McNicholl complete the run-on side as the starting wings.

Apart from Blackadder being back in action, the defending champions have also received a boost by the return from injury of Brodie McAlister (hooker) and Christian Lio-Willie (loose forward), who have been included on the replacements bench.

Joining them as the back-up forwards are All Blacks props Joe Moody and Owen Franks while Dominic Gardiner covers the second-row.

Mitchell Drummond also returns to the matchday squad as the reserve scrum-half and is joined on the bench by Rivez Reihana and Macca Springer, who are the other backline replacements.

Crusaders team to face Waratahs

Crusaders: 15 Chay Fihaki, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Riley Hohepa, 9 Noah Hotham, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie (c), 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Jamie Hannah, 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Fletcher Newell, 2 George Bell, 1 George Bower
Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Dom Gardiner, 20 Christian Lio-Willie, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Rivez Reihana, 23 Macca Springer

Date: Friday, April 12
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19:35 local (10:35 BST, 09:35 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Damon Murphy (Australia), Jordan Kaminski (Australia)
TMO: James Leckie (Australia)

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