Wednesday, March 11, 2009

McCaw back in weeks

Believe it or not, there is actually some good news about Richie McCaw's knee injury.
In a time when the Crusaders need to grasp every thread of positive spin, the revelation that their captain's hurt knee will not end his Super 14 should be treasured like a winning Lotto ticket.

Coach Todd Blackadder said McCaw has been diagnosed as only suffering a grade-two strain to the medial ligament in his right knee during last Saturday night's 0-6 loss to the Highlanders and is only expected to be sidelined for up to six weeks.

"He should be available for the trip to South Africa it should be about five to six weeks," Blackadder said."There's no operation (required) ... It's been assessed by medical staff and they don't believe it's anything more than that (a grade-two strain) and it does not require a scan."

It is a measure of the Crusaders injury woes that McCaw being sidelined for six weeks is something worth celebrating, for this is a time when anything resembling good fortune is welcomed.

The sideline during yesterday's training at Rugby Park was littered with incapacitated players; openside flanker McCaw crabbed around with a full-length brace on his right leg and wing Jared Payne, who is likely to be out of action for four weeks or longer was also wearing a brace on the sprained ankle he suffered in Dunedin.

Wings Sean Maitland (hamstring) and Kade Poki (ankle) were both unable to take part and will remain sidelined, while blindside flanker Kieran Read had a bandage below a knee and left early for a pool session, but should be fit for Saturday night's match against the Western Force at AMI Stadium.

Centre Casey Laulala's shoulder problem could rule him out for another month and although the foot injuries being nursed by lock Brad Thorn and tighthead prop Ben Franks are not deemed serious, they limit their training sessions.

Is the squad downcast? Not at all, says Blackadder: "Absolutely not. The fact is our confidence and belief is still there. We have a hard working bunch of boys and we will come through this. I have no doubt about that."

Fullback Leon MacDonald, who has not played since injuring his shoulder in the opening round, trained yesterday and Blackadder was cautiously optimistic the All Black would face the Force if he passed a fitness test.

MacDonald' return will be well received from the young backline that struggled at Carisbrook and he will give guidance while also providing Blackadder the option of changing his combinations.

If MacDonald returns, Stephen Brett could be switched to first or second five-eighth if it is the latter, Tim Bateman is likely to start at centre.
The Force will be without Wallaby No8 Richard Brown who did not play last weekend and has returned to Perth with a shoulder injury.

Meanwhile, Crusaders hooker Corey Flynn, who broke his arm in the second-round match against the Brumbies, will probably be out of action for six months. It is unlikely he will require an operation and despite suffering five breaks between both arms, he has given no thought to retiring.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry will attend Crusaders training this week after previously being involved with the Highlanders and Hurricanes.

POSITIVE SPIN: An injured Richie McCaw, left, with, from right, Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder, assistant coach Mark Hammett and physio Steve Muir during Crusaders training

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