Big Bird Dominic not flying the Crusaders' nest

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 27/06/2014
Dominic Bird
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ
YELLOW CARD: Referee Garratt Williamson sends Dominic Bird off for ten during the Chiefs-Crusaders match at Waikato Stadium earlier this season.

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Dominic Bird isn't one for the easy alternatives.

Rather than join another Super Rugby franchise in World Cup year, the 2.06m lock hardly blinked when he re-signed with the Crusaders for another two seasons.

Given the Crusaders already have fellow All Blacks' locks Luke Romano and Sam Whitelock contracted through to 2016 and 2017, Bird should have been easy prey for other Super Rugby franchises.

The problem was he refused to leave Christchurch. "I couldn't see anywhere else that was right for me and I like it here. I feel part of this team, I see myself getting minutes and if I fight it right I will be starting."

Those franchises that contemplated recruiting Bird wouldn't have struggled for a sales pitch. They only needed to angle it around the fact he should move to give himself maximum exposure to the All Blacks selectors, enabling him to add to the single test cap he earned against Japan in Tokyo last year.

Being forced to compete against Whitelock and Romano, who will also be trying to impress All Blacks coach Steve Hansen ahead of the World Cup defence, didn't faze him. "You just have to make the right decision and I think I have," Bird reiterated.

In 2012 Bird resisted a lucrative offer from the Blues. He made his Super Rugby debut with the Crusaders last year and pushed his way into the All Blacks.

Romano's broken fibula, an injury he suffered in Brisbane last month, means Bird and Whitelock have been regular starters in the Crusaders' second row.

Romano's misfortune also ensured Bird was named in the All Blacks squad to face England this month but the 23-year-old was never listed in the matchday 23 for any of the three tests, with Whitelock and Brodie Retallick starting and Patrick Tuipulotu preferred on the bench.

Bird also suffered a nasty bout of gastritis ahead of the second test in Dunedin, losing 4kg which prevented him being considered for the Crusaders match against England the following week.

"It made that middle week really tough. I had one of the toughest nights of my life, actually. It wasn't ideal but I hadn't been named in the team that week, anyway, so I just had to get it right in case I was needed as cover."

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