Friday, March 25, 2011

McCaw return spells early exit for Todd

Time is almost up for Matt Todd.

Having inherited his spot from arguably one of New Zealand's greatest players, Todd knows his days in the Crusaders No7 jersey will soon be numbered.

So, come on, is he counting down the days until Richie McCaw returns? No way, says the 23-year-old Todd.

"You can't really worry about when he is going to be back and what is it going to mean for me," Todd emphasised.
"I am just trying to make the most of each chance I get to play. That is all I am really worried about at the moment – there is no point worrying about the thing I can't control."

In any other side the highly promising Todd could potentially lock in regular starts at openside flanker. But with McCaw around there is no chance.

Although coach Todd Blackadder will not rush McCaw back – after next weekend's bye he may name him on the bench against the Bulls in Timaru on April 9 – there is no chance of him leaving the champion fetcher rotting on the sidelines.

One of the stars of the Canterbury team that won the NPC last year, Todd has refused to be intimidated by the jump into the physically demanding and faster Super matches.

Although even his staunchest admirers would admit he has benefited from performing in a pack that contains seven team-mates with international experience, Todd has not been caught short.

His tackle rate continues to be among the best each week and while he has not enjoyed the same freedom as a ball carrier as he did with Canterbury, the rise in levels has not dulled his hunger to pilfer turnover ball.

Inevitably, his name has been flung about whenever there are discussions of who will deputise for McCaw in the World Cup squad.

Last year, All Blacks head coach Graham Henry carried the Blues' Daniel Braid in his northern tour squad, but started McCaw in all five tests.

Braid's experience no doubt earns him brownie points – he first arrived into the All Blacks squad in 2003 – although he has not yet matched the form that prompted Henry to bring him back from the Queensland Reds last year.

To ignore the debate about who will back up McCaw at the World Cup is near impossible for Todd, but he won't even dip his toes into subject when it is raised.

"You see it but you don't get too caught up in it. It is a long Super rugby season, 18 weeks or so and I am not really worried about it.
"You can't get caught up in that, you can't control any of that. I can only play as well as I can, learn as much as I can."

As far as the All Blacks coaches taking the young man aside to offer a few encouraging words, well, forget about it.
Those lines, he says, have been cold and he is quite happy with that arrangement.

"No, I have never had any communication from them.
"It means I can go about my own thing. I'm just focused on this, I'm not too worried about that at all at the moment."

Monday morning's match against the Sharks at Twickenham will be his first encounter against a South African side this year, and Todd will not expect subtleties at the breakdown.
Like most South African sides they will look to bash him out of contact, requiring him to carefully pick his moments when burgling post-tackle ball.

Flankers Willem Alberts and Keegan Daniel will share the fetcher duties, while the likes of aggressive rake Bismarck du Plessis will look to bash seven different colours out of opponents in the cleanout.

"Yeah, it is more physical in the Super competition, but it just brings out the best in you I guess," Todd said.

- The Press

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