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No McCaw or Read in first Crusade

Mon, 10 Feb 2014 09:00
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The Crusaders look set to start their 2014 campaign without two of the most influential players in the world - Richie McCaw and Kieran Read.

It has already been confirmed that Read will miss the Crusaders' Super Rugby opener against the Chiefs on February 21.

The All Black No.8, named the IRB and NZRU player of the year in 2013, has been granted an extra week away from playing duties after a heavy workload in the latter half of 2013 with the All Blacks.

Now it is reported that McCaw could yet join Read on the sideline for the Crusaders' encounter with the two-time defending champions in Christchurch.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder confirmed on Monday that it was in the team's plans all along for Read to miss the game.

However, Test great and New Zealand captain McCaw could also be eased slowly into the season, with Blackadder considering playing Matt Todd on the openside flank against the defending champions.

McCaw, 33, looks set to return to the field in the Crusaders' final pre-season match against the Hurricanes in Levin on Friday.

However, Blackadder says early-season form will dictate his selection. Todd, has already impressed in the team's opening trials and practices.

"It's not just about getting guys back and integrating them and letting them get slowly up to speed," Blackadder said.

"It's about who's ready to go at the start and that may mean that Matt Todd is more physically ready to go and up to speed in his skill executions than Richie McCaw.

"That's not to say Richie is not a great player, but [it is] horses for courses."

Todd, 25, made his All Blacks debut last year with Test appearances off the reserve bench before a chest muscle injury in September ended his season.

Even if Todd gets the nod for the No.7 jersey against the Chiefs, McCaw could still be considered at No.8 in place of Read.

Other loose forward options include the Whitelock brothers, George and Luke, who have both played one Test.

Blackadder said he was comfortable with the decision to allow Read to take an extra week off.

"He won't be available for the opening game - he will be ready to go for the Blues game [in Round Two]," Blackadder said.

"That was always the plan.

"It's a far better plan than the original one, that he was not going to be available for the first three weeks.

"Everyone else is ready to go which is good."

It means the Crusaders second-round match against the Blues in Auckland on February 28 will be Read's first appearance on active duty, because he will not have played in any pre-season games.

Sources: Fairfax NZ News & NZ Newswire

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