Thursday, March 29, 2012

Crusaders learn lessons for Lions match

Good old Israel Dagg.
Rugby players rarely reveal the unvarnished truth, but Dagg conceded while on tour with the Crusaders in South Africa this week that his backline didn't show the Cheetahs enough "respect" last weekend.
So when the Crusaders strike the Lions at Ellis Park on Sunday morning it will be interesting to note whether the lessons from that scratchy 28-21 win have been recognised.
Despite stacking three World Cup winners in their starting backline, including fullback Dagg, the Crusaders were too apathetic in their decision making, and should have changed their attacking method much earlier against the determined Cheetahs' defenders.
"At the start we tried to go around them instead of going through them," Dagg admitted.
"We had to fix it, we couldn't just try to run around them. That is not showing them any respect and is something we learned from the weekend. I just think the boys were a little bit frustrated in that first half and things didn't go our way. But it got better in the second half."
Although the Lions defensive record is hardly intimidating, coach John Mitchell and assistant Carlos Spencer will be encouraging their side to trust each other, keep their line and add some sting to their hits.
The two former All Blacks will be out to prove a point against the first New Zealand opponent of the year and Mitchell, never one to shy away from adding curry to his team talks, will leave his men in little doubt of that.
As a player, ex-Blues playmaker Spencer often had a testy relationship with Crusaders' teams and fans; the ultimate showman, he enjoyed riling them with his antics and will also be searching to put one across his former All Blacks team-mates Todd Blackadder, Daryl Gibson and Dave Hewett.
The advantages of having Dan Carter back at first five-eighth are numerous, not least for his ability to read a game and dig out new plays if their attack is stonewalled.
Although Carter, the Super competition's most prolific marksman with 1272 points, will leave the goal-kicking duties to second-five Tom Taylor, his ability to peel off long punts at altitude will also prove of value.
Not wanting to aggravate the groin injury he suffered during the world cup, Carter is reluctant to take shots at goal. Dagg, who has also been cautious about putting his right quadriceps under too much stress, said he has not been practicing his goal-kicking either.
Although a competent place-kicker, Dagg said he has done little practise in recent times. His first start in the No15 jersey was against the Cheetahs. Earlier appearances on the wing were designed to allow him to avoid punting as well and not risk the muscle which he tore against the Stormers in Cape Town last May.
As the national enquiry continues into many All Blacks' post-world cup form, Dagg, who has had a quiet start to his campaign, rejected any suggestion he is suffering a hangover following the Webb Ellis Cup win.
"Two months break after the World Cup was good enough.
"I am ready to go and am loving being out there and playing rugby. I am pretty sweet. It is my job, I love it.
"I have not found it hard to come back and play at all." RICHARD KNOWLER 30/03/2012

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