Crusaders welcome big three back
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder admitted that it was nice to be back to a full house with the return of three key All Blacks - Dan Carter, Israel Dagg and Kieran Read - to the Crusaders for their crucial clash against the Chiefs in their round 17 Investec Super Rugby match in Hamilton on Friday night.
That 23-22 loss in Christchurch has left the Crusaders in fifth place, on 52 points and 10 behind the pace-setting Chiefs, and has them battling to secure a place in the play-offs for an eleventh successive year.
"I'm really pleased the guys came through as we really need them for the big game against the Chiefs," Blackadder said after training. "DC's [Dan Carter] hamstring is not too bad and he looks sharp and Kieran Read is worth five points every time he pulls on the jersey as he's such a big-game player."
When the Crusaders met the Chiefs in round three in Napier, the all All Blacks-Crusaders front row of the Franks brothers, Ben and Owen, and hooker Corey Flynn were given a torrid time in the scrums by their Chiefs counterparts, a fact Blackadder concedes and hopes to address.
"Possibly we didn't give the respect they deserve. They had a great scrum that night and they really put us under pressure and disrupted us. It was a really good tactic and it worked really well. For us we can't take that back and it is what we do going forward that will count.
"We've put a bit of [scrummaging] work in this week. They took away our hit and we couldn't get our ball. But I'm sure with the coaches they've got with Smithy [Wayne Smith] there will be other things that they will be looking to niggle away at us.
"We're playing the best team in the competition and they deserve the right to say they are number one. Our challenge is to go up there and put a good performance on the track.'
Blackadder said that while Tom Taylor had performed admirably against the Hurricanes, the presence of Carter in the pivot's position brought `big-game experience' to the Crusaders.
Motivation had not been a problem for the Crusaders this week, Blackadder said. "The guys are pretty fired up and they were disappointed with last weekend. These guys are big game players and when you are playing against really good opponents you get up for these games."
1.Ben Franks, 2.Corey Flynn, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Luke Romano, 5.Sam Whitelock, 6.George Whitelock, 7.Richie McCaw (c), 8.Kieran Read, 9.Andy Ellis, 10.Dan Carter, 11.Zac Guildford, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Robbie Fruean, 14.Adam Whitelock, 15.Israel Dagg.
Reserves: 16.Quentin MacDonald, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Tom Donnelly, 19.Matt Todd, 20.Willi Heinz, 21.Tom Taylor, 22.Sean Maitland