Crotty return crucial say Crusaders

Jul 20, 2017 - 10:00 PM Four members of the All Blacks tight five are back to bolster the Crusaders in their Super Rugby quarter-final but they are talking up the return of all-purpose Test back Ryan Crotty.

Coach Scott Robertson expects second five-eighth Crotty to be as influential as ever in Saturday's clash with the Highlanders in Christchurch.

The 28-year-old hasn't played since suffering a hamstring injury early in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions a month ago.

Crotty's absence was keenly felt in last week's 31-22 setback against the Hurricanes, a result which prevented a perfect season for the Crusaders and left them second on the overall standings behind the Lions.

With rain and bitterly cold conditions expected for the southern play-off, Crotty's cool head and decision-making will be highly valued.

"He's huge for us," Robertson said.

"Obviously the experience and his ability to understand the game with the calls and defensively he shows the way.

"We've got to be better in a lot of areas. Clear and obvious at the breakdown and just trust our system a lot more than we have."

The forecast has left Robertson more wary than ever of the Highlanders' ability to successfully launch box kicks through All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith.

The Crusaders didn't cope with such methods well in the tour loss to the Lions, also in miserable weather.

Robertson has responded by shifting David Havili from the midfield to fullback, where he has thrived for much of the year.

All Blacks veteran Israel Dagg shifts from jersey No.15 to No.14, with Seta Tamanivalu swapping to the left wing and ousting George Bridge.

"Aaron Smith is a world class box kicker so for us we have to make sure we catch them," Robertson said.

"It's a good balance in our back three so we can expect a lot with their aerial attack and cover it with those players."

The All Blacks starting front row of Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Owen Franks should thrive if the match turns into trench warfare.

Captain Sam Whitelock also returns to start at lock after coming off the bench against the Hurricanes.

Source: AAP

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