Crotty, Barrett ruled out of final
Robust conversations have already taken place between Crusaders coaches as they ponder who to replace injured All Blacks Ryan Crotty and Scott Barrett with.
The Crusaders don’t name their matchday 23 to contest Saturday’s final against the Jaguares in Christchurch until tomorrow afternoon, and the red-and-blacks are far from short of options.
‘‘Great conversations. It’s really open, there’s good opinion and putting a case together, and then we ultimately agree and commit, or disagree and commit. The one thing we’ll definitely be doing is committing,’’ assistant coach Brad Mooar said.
‘‘And if there’s a decision to make, the boss [head coach Scott Robertson] will make that and on we go. It’s a great group, it’s great to have options and the discussions are really good.’’
A fractured thumb, suffered early in second half of the Crusaders’ 30-26 semifinal win against the Hurricanes last weekend, has denied Crotty the chance to complete his Crusaders career by running out in a home final.
The 152-cap midfielder had surgery on Sunday and is expected to be sidelined for up to eight weeks, meaning he will also miss the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup tests.
Barrett fractured a finger on his righthand in the first half and wasn’t sighted again after the break. He’s expected to be out for up to six weeks.
‘‘You absolutely feel for them. You’re not human if you don’t,’’ Mooar said. ‘‘Now, a couple of other guys will get their opportunity to take us through and perform for them, and put a performance in that is worthy of Scooter and Crotts.’’
Both Crotty and Barrett were spotted at the team’s training session at Rugby Park yesterday morning, and Mooar said they still had an important role to play this week, in terms of utilising their experience and helping prepare the team.
Utility Braydon Ennor, who replaced Crotty on Saturday night, is the obvious choice to play at centre this week, pushing Jack Goodhue inside to second five-eighth, although veteran Tim Bateman is also a possibility.
As for who replaces Barrett and joins captain Sam Whitelock in the second row, Luke Romano, Mitchell Dunshea and Quinten Strange are the contenders.
‘‘Experience, the right mix for the group, the right mix for the game we want to play against the Jaguares, all of that is massive for us and all of that goes into consideration,’’ Mooar said.
‘‘The squad’s got us here. We acknowledged as a group before the finals series, that there will be a core group of players that will probably take us through. But at the same time, there’s going to be something happens where somebody else is going to have a chance.
‘‘And sure enough, here it is and we have utter faith that the whole group is working really hard for us to get a result on Saturday night.’’
Crusaders flanker Matt Todd said he was ‘‘gutted’’ Crotty wouldn’t get a chance to don the red and black jersey one last time, something the 31-year-old might be about to do himself, as the red and blacks eye up a threepeat, and 10th title overall.
‘‘Could well be. Hopefully that [contract situation] will all be sorted very soon.’’