Crusaders’ All Blacks get back to the grind
Embedding six All Blacks into the Crusaders starting side to confront the Chiefs in Suva appears to be the only solution for coach Todd Blackadder.
Forget the inconveniences of a six-day turnaround following the 46-6 win over Wales in Dunedin last Saturday night, or having to travel on an earlybird flight to Fiji yesterday morning: Crusaders coach Blackadder doesn’t encourage excuses when the All Blacks come back under his watch.
Injuries will prevent Luke Romano and Ryan Crotty from playing tomorrow night, but seven other All Blacks who participated in the 3-0 series win over Wales have been asked to immediately return to work.
Captain Kieran Read, Israel Dagg, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor and Wyatt
Israel Dagg, Jone Macilai, Kieron Fonotia, David Havili, Nemani Nadolo, Richie Mo’unga, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (captain), Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Mike Alaalatoa, Jimmy Tupou, Jed Brown, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Sean Wainui. Crockett have been included in the run-on XV, and Joe Moody is in the reserves.
Perhaps No 8 Read, given the work has had to plough through this year, has been promised a rest from the following weekend’s game against the Rebels in Christchurch. That’s possible, because burn-out could be an issue if he isn’t managed; in addition to assuming the captaincy of the All Blacks, and playing all 240 minutes against the Welsh, Read has played nearly every second of the 11 games he has started for the Crusaders.
That’s an enormous workload for the 87-test warrior – arguably the All Blacks’ best player against Wales – to shoulder but it appears Blackadder has told Read and his fellow internationals they have sacrificed too much blood and sweat to let the Chiefs kick them out of the Super Rugby log’s penthouse suite and place their playoff chances in jeopardy.
So it’s back to work, no excuses wanted.
Moody is the only other player to have started all three tests, but he has been named in the reserves because Crockett will start at loosehead. The loss of Crotty has resulted in David Havili starting alongside Kieron Fonotia in the midfield, and Fijian Jone Macilai has been preferred ahead of Johnny wing.
The selections of Macilai and Nemani Nadolo on the wings will prove popular with the locals, and Blackadder and Read will hope that helps swing some local parochialism in their favour.
‘‘We know it’s a Chiefs ‘home’ game, but we are hoping that we will get to see a lot of red and black out there on the field come Friday night,’’ Read told the Fiji Broadcast Corporation. ‘‘I know of Nemani and Jone, we have got a good base here in Fiji, we love the support that we do receive. But we will wait till Friday night and hope for a lot of support.’’
The substitutes bench contains openside flanker Jed Brown. He is listed ahead of Tim Boys who, following a recent viral illness that caused migraine-like symptoms and resulted in him being hospitalised last week, hasn’t been considered. McNicholl on the right