Thorne & Carter return for Crusaders


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Reuben Thorne returns for the Crusaders in his first match since he broke his knuckle while leading the Crusaders against the Lions at AMI Stadium on April 12.

The match will be his 127th game for the side. Already the most capped Crusader; Thorne will tie the Highlanders’ Anton Oliver for the most appearances by any player for a single New Zealand Super rugby franchise.

The other changes from the combination which came from behind to pip the Queensland Reds 27-21 in Brisbane last weekend see first-five-eighths Daniel Carter halfback Andrew Ellis, lock Ali Williams, prop Ben Franks and hooker Corey Flynn also return; after all started from the run on substitutes’ bench last weekend..

There is also a change at centre where the veteran utility back Caleb Ralph stands in for the position’s regular custodian, Casey Laulala, who has been named on the bench.

The selection of Carter completes his return to full duties, after the All Black first-five-eighths produced an influential 25-minute burst at Suncorp Stadium.

Ti’i Paulo, Kahn Fotuali’i and Tim Bateman have all been listed among the run on substitutes, after having featured in the starting XV in Brisbane.

‘We haven’t looked any further ahead than this week, and what is the best combination to serve our needs against the Highlanders,’ Crusaders coach Robbie Deans says on the Team’s web site.

‘The Highlanders have always been a particularly difficult opponent for us. There’s a lot of history obviously, between the two South Island regions, and the derby element has always added a bit of heat to the contest. Saturday night will be no different.’

That said, Deans acknowledged the visit of the southern men provided an opportunity to reintroduce Thorne after his four-week injury break, prior to next week’s semi-final.

‘He’s ready to go again so it was important that we got him involved straight away,’ Deans said.

Statistically speaking, the former Crusaders skipper is not the only one poised for a significant career appearance milestone.

Namesake Brad Thorn will become just the 25th player to reach a half century of caps for the Crusaders. 127 players have worn the jersey so far in the franchise’s 13-year history.

The Mosgiel-born lock forward has featured in all 12 matches played by the Crusaders since he returned for his second stint in rugby union at the start of the campaign. Thorn had earlier won four NRL titles with the Brisbane Broncos, while also playing for Australia and at State of Origin level for Queensland in rugby league.

Caleb Ralph, who like Thorne is off to a Japanese club at the end of the 13th Crusade, will be playing the 135th match of his Super rugby career. The former All Black appeared for the Chiefs and the Blues prior to debuting for the Crusaders in 1999.

This weekend’s cap will leave him just one appearance behind the most games played in Super rugby; the 136 gathered by the former Brumbies and Australian captain George Gregan.

The veteran winger, who is also just one try behind Doug Howlett’s Super rugby try-scoring record of 59, has already played more Super rugby matches than any other New Zealand player.

Crusaders team

15. Leon MacDonald,14. Kade Poki ,13. Caleb Ralph ,12. Stephen Brett ,1. Sean Maitland ,10. Daniel Carter ,9. Andrew Ellis ,8. Mose Tuiali’i ,7. Richard McCaw (captain) ,6. Reuben Thorne ,5. Ali Williams ,4. Brad Thorn ,3. Greg Somerville ,2. Corey Flynn ,1. Ben Franks

Reserves: : 16. Ti’i Paulo ,17. Wyatt Crockett ,18. Kieran Read ,19. Nasi Manu ,20. Kahn Fotuali’i ,21. Tim Bateman ,22. Casey Laulala ,

Coaches: Robbie Deans, Mark Hammett
Manager: Tony Thorpe

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