Super Rugby
Dan Carter poised to face Lions with Crusaders
ESPN Staff
March 10, 2015

Dan Carter is poised to return to action for the Crusaders, against the Lions in Christchurch on Saturday, four weeks after hobbling out of the round-one defeat by Melbourne Rebels at AMI Stadium.

Carter limped out of the Crusaders' opening game after injuring his right leg, but he has finally been able to train at full pace and, hence is pressing for a recall either at fly-half - instead of Colin Slade, who would likely then start at fullback instead of Tom Taylor - or at inside centre outside Slade and inside Ryan Crotty.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said after training on Tuesday that he would "have a really good look" at the options he had to start Carter, tight-head prop Owen Franks, wing Nemani Nadolo, lock Sam Whitelock and No.8 Kieran Read back into his run-on side. Read and Whitelock have each been on a min-sabbatical, while Nadolo has only just returned from Japan and Franks missed the pre-bye defeat by the Chiefs due to suspension.

"With those guys that have been out, it is probably easier for them to start," Blackadder said. "There is a lot of pressure on those guys, too. They haven't played a lot of rugby lately and they have got to come into a team that is under pressure. What we need is the whole team to collectively perform a whole lot better than it has done in the previous game."

The Crusaders were humbled by the Chiefs in round three, losing 40-16 in Hamilton, before having a bye in round four, and Blackadder is aware that another loss, to the Lions, who upset the Blues in Albany last weekend, will see the Crusaders with a 1-3 win-loss record that will likely also see the coach join the Blues' Sir John Kirwan as a target for barbs and media criticism.

"There's always pressure in this job," Blackadder said. "I take it that when people aren't happy with the way that we are playing that it is great. [It shows] that people care about us. We are not happy with the way we are playing, but you have to believe in what you are doing, and when you are under pressure you have to make sure you have got good people, that you trust the people around you, and that you have a strategy.

"Because we didn't set out to put ourselves under pressure; but we are. One thing I do know about this environment is that we respond well under pressure, but actions speak louder than words."

Carter, too, must respond to personal pressure as critics have begun to question whether he can withstand the rigors of a Rugby World Cup campaign. The 33-year-old playmaker has 102 Tests caps, but he has sustained an increasing number of injuries that have prompted ESPN correspondent Craig Dowd to write that "his body is a bit of a liability and he needs to put a lot of focus into his rehabilitation".

"At the age he is now, he probably needs to take a lot more care and have more of an understanding of what he needs to do ... the tag of fragile is hard to shake and what he needs to do is string some consistent games together; it's what everyone is waiting to see. He could take the field and shake that tag off in an instant - that's where he needs to get to."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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