Todd Blackadder prepares Crusaders for 'test'

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 17/06/2014
Todd Blackadder
JOSPEH JOHNSON/ Fairfax NZ
CRUSADERS COACH: Todd Blackadder.

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Riotous speeches aren't likely to scorch the air inside the Crusaders' changing shed ahead of tonight's "test" against England.

Unloading motivational rants won't be necessary for coach Todd Blackadder and stand-in captain George Whitelock whose under-manned side have had around 10 days to prepare for this historical fixture.

Rarely do the Crusaders enter a game at AMI Stadium as underdogs but their side, missing 10 All Blacks if you include Dan Carter, are ranked $3 outsiders at the TAB, while England are listed at $1.35.

Devout Crusaders fans may prefer to keep such sentiments inside their heads but know this is a difficult task for a side fielding a raw second row in Joel Everson and Jimmy Tupou and a bench containing inexperienced tight forwards Siate Tokolahi and Scott Barrett.

Asked if these men would be in awe of the English, Blackadder delivered a succinct: "No".

"We have prepared as if the Crusaders are a test team preparing for a test - which it will be.

"For all our young men who have never played tests and have aspirations to be All Blacks one day, this is a huge game for them."

Just four of the starting team have played for the All Blacks. Corey Flynn, Tom Taylor, Luke and George Whitelock have 20 test caps between them.

Although this England side is an unfamiliar combination, the Crusaders have prepared by studying their patterns and unpicking their game plans during the All Blacks tests and reviewing Six Nations footage.

George Whitelock believes the tourists will stick to their usual drill; to be a willing opponent in the set-pieces, get their lineout drives going and when they are a healthy distance from their own tryline give the ball some air.

"A touring group of 40 players is a pretty big group but the way we are treating it is that they are all going to be doing the same stuff, so that is probably where we are at."

The Crusaders, he added, won't be prepared to lose possession - given they will have to scrap like wolves to get it in the first place - inside their own half.

Legally stopping England's rolling mauls and not allowing them to slow post-tackle ball will be a priority. Varying their game with quick lineouts may to used to avoid getting sucked into the physical engagements.

There is undoubtedly a determination among the Crusaders to present a compelling display to northern hemisphere viewers; something that has been complicated by the All Blacks only releasing openside flanker Matt Todd who has been listed on the bench and is expected to play a maximum of 40 minutes.

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Blackadder is mindful his side are helping to fly the flag for the competition.

"I know there are certain people who think Super Rugby is super touch," he added. "It's a fantastic competition we play in and also a fantastic opportunity to showcase our rugby to the world."

- The Press

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