Captain of the Crusaders Kieran Read, right, returns to Super Rugby action after six weeks on the sidelines with concussion and flu. Photo: Marty Melville

Auckland – All Blacks No 8 Kieran Read will return to Super Rugby action for the Canterbury Crusaders on Friday after six weeks on the sidelines with concussion and flu.

The 2013 IRB Player of the Year, who sustained the concussion against the Waikato Chiefs on April 19, will captain the seven-times champions in their match against the Western Force in Christchurch.

The 28-year-old has been training with the All Blacks in preparation for the June series against England and will be out to prove his match fitness ahead of Sunday’s announcement of the squad for the three tests.

The Crusaders would usually be odds on favourites to beat the Force but the Perth-based outfit have been the surprise of Super Rugby this year and will go into the match boasting eight wins, the same number as their hosts.

Read’s return in place of Luke Whitelock, who moves onto the bench, is the only change to the team that beat the Otago Highlanders by the narrowest of margins last week to go top of the New Zealand conference.

The Crusaders have lost three of their five matches at home this season and coach Todd Blackadder called on the crowd to make plenty of noise as the team bids for a victory in their last outing before the international break.

“We are up against another very tough team this week and this win is so important for both of us,” he said.

“So we need to make the most of every advantage we've got, and the home crowd is one of the big ones.” – Reuters