Monday, February 22, 2010

Richie McCaw set for bench in next round


Sorry, Richie, it's time to get back to the business of bruising bodies and robbing breakdowns.
Richie McCaw isn't due back until March 6, but Friday night's 41-20 drubbing by the Queensland Reds is expected to bring the openside flanker on to the Crusaders bench for next weekend's match against the Sharks at AMI Stadium.

Permitted to skip up to three Super 14 matches as part of a "sabbatical" clause in his New Zealand Rugby Union contract, it was anticipated McCaw would be rested until the match against the Blues.

Any such hopes expired in the muggy heat of Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium and McCaw is likely to replace Jonathan Poff in the reserves next Friday night.

"Part of the plan is that he will be available for the bench," Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder confirmed yesterday. "He's definitely keen to come back ... he's breaking down the door to play."
McCaw has been practising with the squad and Blackadder maintained he would not be rushed back into his No 7 jersey. "He's been to every training run, getting right amongst it. We just didn't want to throw him to the wolves too early."

Although most Crusaders fans would prefer to see McCaw start, just having his presence and knowing he is waiting to be unleashed from the dugout should add assurance.

It is not just the opportunity of seeing the world's best openside flanker back in action that will create anticipation; just how McCaw, who did not play in any pre-season matches, will cope with the change in interpretations of the breakdown rules will also add spice to his return.

While McCaw's reinstatement will be of comfort to Blackadder, the coach also has to figure out what changes, if any, he will make for the Sharks match.

One thing appears certain: he won't go carving up his team as a knee-jerk reaction to the heavy defeat.

"If you were looking at just that one poor performance, you would replace your whole team. It was just one of those nights when nothing went right."

Yesterday Blackadder took his jetboat for a spin and may have been tempted to sacrifice the paintwork on a gravel bank to vent his frustrations from Friday night.

He needed no reminding the Brisbane effort was a dud and would have been disappointed that the fine showing against the Highlanders in the opening round now means nothing.

Expectations were high that the Crusaders would win and grab four valuable competition points but instead they left with zilch after trailing 14-6 at halftime and 41-13 in the final minute, until Brad Thorn scored his late try.

"We were just not there mentally," Blackadder conceded. "And then when you try to play catch-up, you just try too hard. In all honesty, the whole team played poorly ... you would have to question our mentality."

A "discussion" was held after the loss, but Blackadder maintained the paint did not blister off the walls: "We could see how disappointed the players were afterwards. It's not about reflecting on what has been, it's about finding solutions."

Meanwhile, the Reds have lost captain James Horwill for the season.
He will be sidelined for nine months with the


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