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Carter could come back via bench

Published: 7:26AM Monday April 22, 2013 Source: Fairfax

  • Dan Carter  (Source: Photosport )
    Dan Carter - Source: Photosport

Dan Carter's return to the Crusaders this weekend could be off the bench.

Carter, who has not played since March 23, will be considered for Sunday's match against the Melbourne Rebels at AMI Stadium if he has recovered from his hamstring strain - but Tyler Bleyendaal may be retained at first five-eighth.

Paternity duties and injury have resulted in All Black Carter skipping a month of Super Rugby and coach Todd Blackadder will be loathe to rush him back, especially after being impressed by Bleyendaal's performance in Saturday night's 24-8 win over the Highlanders.

''Dan will be assessed this week, we're hoping he will be right,'' Blackadder said.

''If he is fit, he may not be an automatic starter.

''We could do what we did with Tom Taylor last week (when he was named on the bench for the Highlanders). We won't be making changes for the Rebels game just for the sake or resting players or anything like that.''

There was nothing spectacular about the Crusaders victory against the Highlanders - the difficult conditions, referee Garratt Williamson's whistle and his constant referrals to the TMO contributed to an ugly display - but Blackadder wasn't bothered. He was relieved to end a run of two defeats and to see Bleyendaal add some physicality to his game.

Just over a week ago the Crusaders had just one fit first-five; now with Taylor and Carter likely to be available, they have three playmakers at their disposal.

''Tyler put in his best defensive game of the season, I thought he played really well,'' Blackadder added.

''I have never seen him get so physical with his tackles and clean-out - he showed some real grit.''

Captain and No 8 Kieran Read, who has not played since March 23 because of torn ligaments in his big toe, is an outside chance to face the Rebels. Read's recovery has been encouraging.

''He's back jogging again - that is a really good sign. But I suppose we just have to wait to see how he pulls-up this week.''

All Black Read could potentially be named on the bench to face the Rebels. That will allow him build confidence before the difficult assignment against the Brumbies in Canberra on May 5 and keeping Luke Whitelock at No 8 will ensure he can keep building on his form.

''I thought Luke had his best game of the season,'' Blackadder stated.

''For a young man the path he should take is to do the hard work, learn his trade. He's showing some promise, he just has to keep getting his hands dirty.''

The Crusaders are expected to roll the Rebels. Yet they still should feel embarrassed when they recall last year's 28-19 shock defeat in Melbourne which cost them any hope of qualifying top of the New Zealand conference.

For that reason Blackadder appears reluctant to make changes just to test combinations.

''It would be arrogant for the coaches, or anyone, to think we are going to thump the Rebels. It is just not going to happen.''

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