Injured Crusaders wing George Bridge could make his first appearance in five months this Sunday when his side play the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland.
The 25-year-old has been out of action since last October after injuring his chest while training with the All Blacks in the lead-up to the second Bledisloe Cup test, but has been cleared to return to the playing field this weekend.
Crusaders assistant coach Andrew Goodman confirmed the news on Wednesday, although he suggested Bridge could instead get some playing time via the franchise’s reserve side, the Crusaders Knights.
“He’s done really well,” Goodman said of Bridge. “He’s been competing real hard, as George does, at training the last few weeks. He’s available, and we’ve got this game, or the development game, to give him some minutes this week.
“Definitely won’t be playing 80 [minutes], that’s for sure, he’d love to play 80. The way he is running around, he’s fit and ready to go.”
Bridge, a 10-test All Black, will have stern competition to regain his place on the left wing following a string of impressive performances from youngster Leicester Fainga’anuku in the opening few weeks of the new season.
However, with international experience and a different skill set to Fainga’anuku, Bridge would be a valued addition to a Crusaders side that is yet to taste defeat this season ahead of their crunch match with the Blues.
Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson will be buoyed by the return of Bridge, who is one of many players who could feature for the reigning champions after being sidelined through injury.
Loose forward Cullen Grace was a late withdrawal from last week’s victory over the Chiefs due to a rib complaint, while blindside flanker Ethan Blackadder missed the match entirely through concussion, but both players will be available for selection.
The same can’t be said of promising young flanker Tom Christie, who has been ruled out for an indefinite period of time after dislocating his shoulder in that Chiefs match.
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