Crusaders veteran Richie McCaw ruled out

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 14:45 07/07/2014
Richie McCaw
JOSEPH JOHNSON/Fairfax NZ
STILL OUT: Veteran Crusaders loose forward Richie McCaw remains sidelined with a rib injury.

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Richie McCaw won't be considered for the Crusaders' match against the Highlanders on Saturday night.

The All Blacks captain, who played the third test against England on June 21 with a fractured rib, has missed the Crusaders' last two Super Rugby games and will once again relinquish his No 7 jersey to Matt Todd for the final regular season fixture in Christchurch.

Coach Todd Blackadder this afternoon confirmed McCaw's injury will prevent him being involved in the fixture at AMI Stadium.

The fact the Crusaders have already qualified for the Super Rugby play-offs, and that Todd has been a star performer in McCaw's absence, have made this an easy decision for Blackadder.

Rather than rush the All Blacks captain back into action Blackadder now has the luxury of making sure McCaw is fully fit for the finals series.

If the second-placed Crusaders beat the Highlanders there is a chance they will finish behind minor premiers, the Waratahs, and secure a home semifinal.

That would also earn them a bye ahead of the semi - giving McCaw an extra week to recover.

McCaw, who has told Blackadder he is amped to get back playing, ran without any noticeable discomfort during a light-hearted ball game at training this afternoon but it is likely the medical staff will urge him not to be involved in any contact work.

The Crusaders also remain confident that lock Sam Whitelock, who was ruled out of last weekend's 21-13 win over the Blues because of a calf strain, will be fit to play the Highlanders.

Whitelock, like a number of his team-mates, didn't run around with the squad.

If he is ruled out Dominic Bird and Jimmy Tupou will start once again in the second row.

A number of players, including star wing Nemani Nadolo and Todd, were involved in lighter duties to allow their bodies to recover from the physical encounter against the Blues.

First five-eighth Colin Slade, who left the field after being battered in an attempted tackle on Ma'a Nonu, is expected to be passed fit.

Slade was not concussed and his likely return means Dan Carter will once again start at second-five.

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