Thursday, April 07, 2011

McCaw joins Crusaders at training Tuesday Apr 5, 2011 The Crusaders and New Zealand rugby were yesterday handed a classic good news-bad news scenario. All Black captain Richie McCaw was back training with the Crusaders for the first time during this Super 15 campaign. McCaw suffered a stress fracture to the fifth metatarsal of his right foot while doing a "yo-yo" fitness test in early February. He had surgery to insert a small screw into the bone and has not played a competitive match since the All Blacks completed a Grand Slam against Wales in November. "Richie has been running for the past two weeks and today was the first time he had run with the team," Todd Blackadder said. The Crusaders coach stated McCaw would not be considered for Saturday's running with the Bulls in Timaru, but could be back to face the Chiefs in Mt Maunganui in round nine. Tempering the warm fuzzies coming out of the Crusaders' training base was the news that outstanding young lock Sam Whitelock will miss up to two months rugby. He faces surgery on the ankle he injured during the Crusaders match against the Sharks at Twickenham. In medical-speak, the 22-year-old suffered a high-grade medial ankle ligament tear and a small anterior ankle fracture. Once that damage was fully assessed it was recommended the 13-test All Black undergo surgery, which the Crusaders hope will take place before the end of the week. "It's not all bad," said Blackadder. "He will be back for the business end of the season" For the Crusaders that means the later rounds of the Super 15 - the "home" game against the Chiefs at Napier on May 21 has been mooted as a possible return date - and, hopefully the playoffs. The rest of the rugby public associates "business end" of the season as the World Cup. Using last year's form as a guide, Whitelock is in pole position to grab one of probably four All Black locking spots alongside veteran Brad Thorn. A raft of others, including Anthony Boric, Tom Donnelly and Ali Williams, who could tell Whitelock a tale or two about ankle injuries, are chasing the other spots. The Crusaders, who have yet to play since their 44-28 win over the Sharks, would likely opt for the veteran pairing of Thorn and Chris Jack, with Luke Romano on the bench, as they take on a formidable Bulls locking duo that will almost certainly feature Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha. If the Twickenham clash was an exhibition of high-tempo rugby, it was also high attrition. Kieran Read is rated an 80-20 chance of playing on Saturday after recovering from a stinger to his neck. The prognosis on playmaker Dan Carter is not as positive, though the Crusaders reported that his hamstring was responding well to treatment. If Carter is ruled out, Matt Berquist is likely to be named to start when the team is announced on Thursday, with 20-year-old Tyler Bleyendaal joining the reserves. By Dylan Cleaver

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