All Blacks captain Richie McCaw will make his first appearance for Canterbury this season in Friday night’s Air NZ Cup quarterfinal against Tasman in Christchurch.
His return will bolster a loose forward trio weakened by Mose Tuiali’i’s season-ending neck injury.
McCaw, who resumed training with his provincial side this week, has been named on the bench for the sudden-death derby between the Crusaders’ powerbase and feeder union.
McCaw is a welcome addition to a Canterbury side which finished the regular season in second place behind title favourites Wellington.
Out of action since the Tri-Nations clincher in Brisbane on September 13, McCaw is expected to replace starting openside George Whitelock at some point.
Kieran Read makes his second consecutive start at No 8 after Japan-bound Tuali’i, who was injured after playing off the bench against Southland last weekend, was ruled out for the remainder of the season.
In other changes to the pack that started in Invercargill, lock Isaac Ross is promoted from the bench for James Broadhurst.
Prop Greg Somerville also starts to form a first choice front row also comprising hooker Corey Flynn and Wyatt Crockett, who was rested last week. Peter Borlase drops out of the 22.
First five-eighth Stephen Brett remains unavailable with a leg injury while Casey Laulala makes his first appearance in the starting line-up after making his season debut off the bench last weekend.
In other changes to the backline from the side that beat Southland 25-6, Paul Williams replaces Sean Maitland on the right wing while Tim Bateman also starts in midfield — Hamish Gard drops to the bench.
Canterbury: Scott Hamilton, Paul Williams, Casey Laulala, Tim Bateman, James Paterson, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (captain), George Whitelock, Hayden Hopgood, Isaac Ross, Michael Paterson, Greg Somerville, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett.
Reserves: Ti’i Paulo, Owen Franks, James Broadhurst, Richie McCaw, Tyson Keats, Hamish Gard, Adam Whitelock.