Nadolo gone, Dagg in doubt for the Crusaders

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 24/06/2014

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The likely omission of Israel Dagg will further reduce the Crusaders' strike power, with Nemani Nadolo already ruled out of the Hurricanes match.

Fullback Dagg, who has not played since the All Blacks' first test against England on June 7, is not likely to play Saturday night's match in Wellington because he needs to rest the patella knee injury which has dogged him this season.

While Crusaders assistant coach Tabai Matson reported some positive news about Kieran Read, noting the No. 8 had not had a recurrence of the concussion symptoms that forced him to skip the first two tests, he was less optimistic about Dagg's chances.

"It's his wellbeing (that is a priority). He's had a pretty big workload," said Matson, who said more will be known about Dagg's future after training today.

"We have got a Plan B in place."

Dagg's expected scratching is likely to mean Tom Taylor, who started at centre against the Western Force on May 30, runs at fullback.

Losing Nadolo, the Crusaders' most lethal finisher with seven tries, is a blow. Nafi Tuitavake is expected to start on the left wing.

Despite Nadolo recently stating he was optimistic he would be available a change of heart from within the Fijian camp has robbed the Crusaders of their deadliest weapon on attack.

Fiji, who lost 18-13 to Samoa last weekend, must beat the Cook Islands this weekend to qualify for the World Cup.

"Their situation's changed - our situation's changed," Matson said. "We have been in constant contact with the coach from Fiji."

The Crusaders will also be keeping a wary eye on the growing mountain of minutes Sam Whitelock has accumulated.

Lock Whitelock has started all 13 of the Crusaders matches, along with the three tests against England.

With the Crusaders entering such a crucial phase of their season, they want to win all three round-robin games to maintain their place at the top of the New Zealand conference, they cannot afford to burn the All Black out.

Compounding this conundrum is that Jimmy Tupou suffered a concussion against England last week. With Luke Romano already ruled out for the season because of a broken lower leg, Scott Barrett could join the squad as cover.

If Whitelock is rested Dominic Bird and Joel Everson would be contenders to start against the Hurricanes.

Matt Todd may also start ahead of Richie McCaw to give the All Blacks captain a break following the test series.

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- Fairfax Media

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