All Blacks flood back for Crusaders' final pre-season match against Highlanders

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NZN

Sam Whitelock has kept his off-season to a minimum and will captain the Crusaders in their final pre-season match against the Highlanders.

Sam Whitelock of the Crusaders. Super Rugby Round Five. Crusaders vs. Western Force, AMI Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand. Friday, 24 March, 2017. ┬ęCopyright Photo: Martin Hunter / www.photosport.nz

Sam Whitelock of the Crusaders.

Source: Photosport

Whitelock had a busier season than any New Zealand-based professional last year, playing in all but two of the championship-winning Crusaders' 18 matches while also starting 12 Tests.

The veteran lock led the injury-struck All Blacks in their final Test of the year against Wales in Cardiff.

Rather than make a delayed return to Super Rugby, the 96-Test veteran will line up in Thursday's match in Gore in an ominous-looking starting XV.

Ten All Blacks will run out, even though coach Scott Robertson is without injured foursome Kieran Read, Israel Dagg, Owen Franks and Joe Moody, who are all scheduled to return in April.

The starting All Blacks are expected to play in the first half only.

Crusaders: David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Braydon Ennor, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd, Pete Samu, Sam Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett.

Reserves: Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Chris King, Ben Funnell, Oli Jager, Luke Romano, Quinten Strange, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Billy Harmon, Mitchell Drummond, Mitch Hunt, Jone Macilai, Tim Bateman, Manasa Mataele, George Bridge.

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