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Richie McCaw © Gallo Images

McCaw to make return from bench

New Zealand's rugby World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw will make his long delayed return to the field on Sunday after he was named on the Crusaders' replacements bench for their Super Rugby clash against the Waratahs.

The 31-year-old loose forward has not played since he lifted the Webb Ellis trophy following the All Blacks' victory over France at Eden Park on October 23 last year.

McCaw had battled immense pain throughout the World Cup from a screw that had been inserted to fix a fracture in his foot, which had also kept him out of several weeks of last year's Super Rugby competition.

He had the screw removed after the World Cup and had said he did not expect to play again before April.

The seven-time champions made a slow start to the season, but have started to show signs they will again be strong title contenders after they ended the Stormers' unbeaten run on April 14 then destroyed the Hurricanes 42-14 last Saturday.

McCaw's All Blacks teammate Tony Woodcock, however, has been ruled out of Auckland's clash with champions Reds at Eden Park on Friday after he sustained a calf strain at training.

Woodcock had taken an extended break after the World Cup and made a late start to the Blues' campaign, adding steel to their scrum.

The Blues, tipped as potential champions before the season began, have only won one game in their eight matches and are bottom of the standings on 12 points.

Tevita Mailau moves into the starting line-up to replace Woodcock and Auckland prop Angus Taavao will be the bench replacement.

Blues captain Keven Mealamu is also battling a calf strain and has not been considered for the second successive week with young openside flanker Luke Braid again taking the captaincy.

Crusaders Team: 15. Israel Dagg, 14. Adam Whitelock, 13. Robert Fruean, 12. Dan Carter, 11. Zac Guildford, 10. Tom Taylor, 9. Andy Ellis, 8. Kieran Read (capt), 7. Matt Todd, 6. George Whitelock, 5. Luke Romano, 4. Tom Donnelly, 3. Owen Franks, 2. Corey Flynn, 1. Ben Franks

Replacements: 16. Ben Funnell, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Sam Whitelock, 19. Richie McCaw, 20. Willi Heinz, 21. Ryan Crotty, 22. Tom Marshall


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