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McCaw returns for Crusaders

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw will make his return to top-class rugby on Saturday.

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw holds the Webb Ellis cup. Picture: AFP

WELLINGTON - All Blacks captain Richie McCaw will make his return to top-class rugby from the bench on Saturday when the Canterbury Crusaders meet the Queensland Reds in their Super Rugby playoff match.

The 32-year-old World Cup winning captain returned to the field last week in a lower-level club competition following a sabbatical agreed with the New Zealand Rugby Union.

Prior to that game for the Christchurch club, McCaw had not played since the All Blacks lost to England at Twickenham last December.

He has been training with the seven-times champion Crusaders but had not made himself available for selection during the regular season. His sabbatical ended on June 30 and he managed to play 80 minutes for Christchurch last week.

The openside flanker will start on the bench for the game at Rugby League Park in Christchurch with Matt Todd, who has deputised in McCaw's absence for the last three years, making his 50th Super Rugby appearance for the side.

McCaw's All Blacks team mate Luke Romano has also returned to the starting side after he recovered from an ankle sprain and missed last week's final game, a 25-17 victory over the Wellington Hurricanes.

Number eight Jake Schatz will make his 50th appearance for the Reds, who have recalled Wallabies captain James Horwill and influential scrumhalf Will Genia to their side for the match.

The 2011 champions have been forced to rejig their backline after injuries to winger Rod Davies (knee) as well as centres Mike Harris and Anthony Faingaa (both hamstring.

Jono Lance comes in at inside centre with Dom Shipperley and Chris Feauai-Sautia named as the wingers in the continued absence of Wallaby Digby Ioane.

Australia's ACT Brumbies will host South Africa's Cheetahs on Sunday in the other playoffs match.

The winners of the two games will advance to next week's semi-finals against either the 2012 champion Waikato Chiefs or Bulls.