By RICHARD KNOWLER
Thursday, 1 November 2007
Mose Tuiali'i may be switched to openside flanker if Richie McCaw is injured next year.
With specialist No. 7 Johnny Leo'o signing with French club Racing Paris Metro, the Crusaders have opted for Kieran Read, George Whitelock and Tuiali'i as their back-up options for McCaw next season.
None are noted as specialist opensiders.
Whitelock captained the New Zealand under-21 team at No. 7 against Canada this year but was used in all loose forward positions by Otago in the Air New Zealand Cup.
"The skill set on both sides is identical," coach Robbie Deans said.
"We'll make sure our preparation is as robust as possible, so that we prepare for every potential scenario."
The Crusaders will use its three pre-season matches to test the players in the fetcher role, which will give Tuiali'i time to adjust to the unfamiliar position before the opening Super 14 match against the Brumbies at AMI Stadium on February 15.
Blindside flanker Read has previously had some experience at No. 7, but played all his matches for Canterbury on the other side.
In previous seasons the Crusaders have selected three specialists opensiders.
This year Leo'o and Jonathan Poff backed up for McCaw and last season Tanerau Latimer was drafted from Bay of Plenty.
Peter Nixon was also used at openside this year, but was not considered because he is having shoulder reconstruction.
Poff was not picked up by any Super 14 franchises yesterday.
Canterbury's Hayden Hopgood, who was drafted to the Hurricanes this year, has been sent to the Chiefs.
While Brad Thorn, who has spent the last three seasons with the Brisbane Broncos, has the ball skills to be an effective ball runner at No. 6, Deans stated he will be used primarily at lock.
"Brad is aware that his ears will be getting rubbed together."
With Thorn joining Ali Williams, Ross Filipo, Michael Paterson and Reuben Thorne as the locking options there was no room for Kevin O'Neill who signed for Waikato but could be loaned back to Canterbury next year.
Isaac Ross was expected to be drafted to the Blues but ended up at the Highlanders instead.