By Dylan Cleaver
Thursday Mar 11, 2010
Chiefs coach Ian Foster is not convinced Richie McCaw will be wearing the number he wants on his back when the Crusaders face his side tomorrow.
McCaw has been named at blindside flanker for the second week in a row, though in reality he and George Whitelock play more as dual opensides.
The new rule interpretations seem to give coaches more leeway to play left and right flankers rather than the traditional open and blindside modus operandi, but Foster is not completely sold.
"I'm not sure about that," he said. "It has its advantages and disadvantages. The way I see it, the selection of their loosies is really based on their personnel. They obviously rate all three of those loosies and want to get all three of them on the park.
"Richie's the one that's got the ability to shift. Because he's such a good footballer he can play in any one of those three positions. I'm not convinced that's the jersey that he wants, but he has a lot of multi-skills he can adapt to that."
Whichever way they align themselves, the Crusaders' loose trio of McCaw, Whitelock and No 8 Kieran Read will pose a three-pronged threat to the Chiefs as they try to bounce back from last week's disappointing 23-18 loss to the Reds.
"We know we've got a battle to look after them but we rate our work in that area as well," said Foster.
The Chiefs have Luke Braid on the bench if Foster feels they need a dual openside strategy to counter McCaw and Whitelock, but the coach is shorn of one loose forward option.
Sione Lauaki was yesterday charged with assault and as a result Foster felt it best to give the 28-year-old No 8 the week off.
The loss of Lauaki has been balanced by the return of Craig Clarke earlier than expected.
The groin strain he picked up in South Africa was expected to sideline him for at least a month. His return to the starting line-up sees him paired with novice Romana Graham, while the promising Culum Retallick drops to the bench.
Hooker Aled de Malmanche is the other change from the starting XV against the Reds, with Hika Elliot trading places.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder believes the Chiefs will continue their expansive approach, despite last week's setback.
"The first three times they threw the ball wide against the Reds they scored tries and that's just gold. They've shown all campaign they've got strikepower. We've just got to deny them that set piece pressure.
"We expect it to be a confrontational and physical contest as they always are."
The Crusaders have made two changes to the team that beat the Blues 33-20.
Halfback Andy Ellis has not recovered from a head knock and has been replaced by Kahn Fotuali'i, while All Black lock Isaac Ross, back from an ankle injury, has relegated rookie Sam Whitelock to the reserves.
All Black prop Ben Franks and No 8 Thomas Waldrom, both of whom missed the Crusaders 22-man team last week because of injury, have come on to the reserves bench in place of Peter Borlase and Jonathan Poff.
Mils Muliaina (captain), Lelia Masaga, Richard Kahui, Callum Bruce, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Stephen Donald, Brendon Leonard, Colin Bourke, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Romana Graham, Craig Clarke, Nathan White, Aled de Malmanche, Sona Taumalolo.
Reserves: Vern Kamo, Ben Afeaki, Culum Retallick, Luke Braid, Junior Poluleuligaga, Mike Delany, Dwayne Sweeney.
Jared Payne, Sean Maitland, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Zac Guildford, Daniel Carter, Kahn Fotuali'i, Kieran Read, George Whitelock, Richie McCaw (captain), Isaac Ross, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Ti'i Paulo, Wyat Crockett.
Reserves: Corey Flynn, Ben Franks (Peter Borlase), Sam Whitelock, Thomas Waldrom (Jonathan Poff), Willi Heinz, Adam Whitelock, Colin Slade.