Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Mealamu returns as Blues face Crusaders challenge

Kieran Read is expected to return from his foot injury to lead the Crusaders pack. Photo / Getty Images
Kieran Read is expected to return from his foot injury to lead the Crusaders pack. Photo / Getty Images

Experienced hooker Keven Mealamu will return to the Blues as they head into their repeat clash with the test-cap heavy Crusaders.

Mealamu had calf trouble in his comeback start against the Stormers and was spelled last week but is set to go on Saturday against the competition benchmarks. His appearance should help some of the scrum difficulties though the lineouts may be a tougher assignment. The Blues battled in both areas against the Rebels.

"If you look at all our games they are areas we need to continue to improve on," coach John Kirwan said. "The Crusaders are the best at it, they have the best lineout and the best scrum so we have to be on our game.

"How we deal with their forwards will be a huge part of the game. They have an All Black pack and we are the underdogs."

Kieran Read is expected to return from his foot injury to lead a Crusaders pack who have only Matt Todd without test experience. Tack on a quartet of backs with All Black credentials and the breadth of the Blues' task grows.

The Crusaders are coming off a bye, just as they were when they were beaten by the Blues 34-15 at the start of the competition.

Suggest the repeat bye gives the Blues a slight edge and Kirwan delivers a disdainful look. "At the beginning of the season they had more All Blacks than us who came in late and the bye probably hurt them but now we are deeper into the series," he said.

The Blues had improved to six wins and four defeats but the stretch of three matches up to the June break would be defining. The Crusaders, Brumbies and Highlanders' schedule would have a great bearing on the Blues' push to qualify for the playoffs.

- NZ Herald

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