McCaw back for Crusaders
February 24, 2010
Richie McCaw needed a rest after terrorising Europe's defences © PA Photos
The Crusaders are hoping the return of All Blacks Richie McCaw, Brad Thorn and Wyatt Crockett will inspire a rebound from their unexpected Super 14 loss to the Reds last weekend.
Thorn and Crockett return to the Crusaders starting 15 for the first time this season while New Zealand captain McCaw will come off the bench for the third round Super 14 rugby match against the Sharks in Christchurch on Friday night.
Coach Todd Blackadder had previously resisted rushing lock Thorn into the starting side after his heavy international workload last year while loosehead prop Crockett had been set back by a pre-season ankle injury.
But Blackadder was not tempted to include McCaw, who had been given an extended sabbatical after captaining the All Blacks on their end-of-season northern hemisphere tour, in the starting team despite the Crusaders losing to the Reds in Brisbane.
"`It was always planned to have Richie back this week and to put him on the bench and we're not going to change that philosophy," Blackadder said. "It would be putting him under a lot of pressure as well. It's never about one person and we'll manage him during the game."
Blackadder has made four personnel changes to the team who lost 20-41 to the Reds as well as positional change with Jared Payne moving from the right wing to replace Colin Slade at fullback.
Sean Maitland will have his first start on the wing and Ryan Crotty, recovered from concussion suffered in a pre-season match, has replaced Tim Bateman at second five-eighth. In the forwards, Thorn replaces Isaac Ross, who injured his left ankle at training on Monday, and Crockett takes the place of fellow All Black Owen Franks.
Blackadder said the Crusaders were aware of the Sharks' strengths and they represented an even greater danger after losing their opening two matches at home.
"They'll be desperate. Both teams will be desperate which makes for a good feisty encounter. We know that the boys from Durban will be big units and good operators in the set pieces. They'll be tough but in truth there are no easy games in the Super 14."
Crusaders first five-eighth Dan Carter said he could not recall a more inept display by the Crusaders than the error-ridden loss to the Reds, but he vowed there would be no repeat.
"We're an extremely proud side and we have really high standards which we didn't meet last weekend. We're still confident in ourselves and will look to turn things around against the Sharks."
Carter said that as one of the leaders in the team - his 71 appearances make him the most capped Crusaders back - he would be to the fore in ensuring the "boys kept their heads up and remained positive".
"We know we are a much better side than our last game," he said.
The Sharks have never beaten the Crusaders in Christchurch - their last win against the Crusaders was by one point in Durban three years ago - but the record books are there to be rewritten as the Reds proved in the last round.