All Blacks forward Blackadder back from injury for embattled Crusaders

golf10 April 2024 06:00| © AFP
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Ethan Blackadder © Gallo Images

All Blacks loose forward Ethan Blackadder will make a cautious return for the Crusaders on Friday after a horror run of injures, head coach Rob Penney said Wednesday.

The 29-year-old flanker boosts the Crusaders with his first appearance this season after a calf injury when they face the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney.

Both teams are in the bottom three of the Super Rugby table.

"Ethan is a tremendous player, he adds a lot of spark about the group," Penney told reporters. "Hopefully he can have a long run now."

Blackadder could play his way back into contention for the All Blacks, who host England in two test matches this July, having spent most of the last two seasons restricted by injuries.

The live-wire flanker was a late call-up – as injury cover – at last year's Rugby World Cup, where he played one game in the group stages, having suffered calf and quad problems last year.

He missed the entire 2022 international season after shoulder surgery.

"He's had some disappointments over the last 12 months with recurring injury," Penney said.

"We have been ultra-cautious and he has been really diligent. The last thing he wants is another setback."

The Crusaders, Super Rugby champions for the last seven years under Penney's predecessor Scott Robertson, beat the Chiefs last time out.

That victory snapped a five-match losing streak, their worst run of results in Super Rugby history, but they are still second from bottom of the table.

The Waratahs sit one place above them. The Australian side won 37-24 when the teams last met, in Melbourne in March.

That was the last time the Waratahs won, crashing to five straight defeats since including a 40-16 drubbing at the Brumbies last weekend.

"They'll be desperate after the couple of weeks they have had," warned Penney, who predicts a heated game. "Two desperate teams, I guess there will be fireworks."