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McCaw, read in the wars

NEW ZEALAND captain Richie McCaw and No 8 Kieran Read are expected to be available for selection for the first Test against Ireland at Eden Park next Saturday, despite both Crusaders players being forced off during yesterday's 51-18 Super 15 victory over the Highlanders.

McCaw, Read and out-half Dan Carter are all working their way back to full fitness and form after injury and all three All Blacks were exceptional as the Crusaders ran in seven tries in Christchurch.

Read was playing his first match since bruising his pelvic bone against the Rebels three weeks ago and was withdrawn midway through the second half, while a bloodied McCaw left the field after sustaining a heavy blow to the nose and mouth area from an opponent's head.

Both are expected to be included in Steve Hansen's 30-man squad for the three-Test series -- as is Dan Carter, who was back in his favoured No 10 jersey after a stint at 12. Carter grimaced after kicking a long-range penalty early on, but said afterwards that he was "in good shape."

Irish Independent