Dan Carter not fazed by marking Ma'a Nonu
The prospect of marking Ma'a Nonu in his first-run on start for the Crusaders this season doesn't seem to faze Dan Carter.
Carter, who has been selected at second five-eighth for Saturday night's Super Rugby match against the Blues in Christchurch, can expect a vigorous examination of his defensive techniques if Nonu straightens his running lines and runs directly at his All Blacks team-mate.
''We have played alongside each other at 12 and 13 for the All Blacks, we are good mates and I look forward to coming up against him this weekend,'' Carter said.
Last weekend Carter made his first first-class appearance of the season when he replaced first-five Colin Slade, who failed a concussion test, in the second half of last weekend's 16-9 defeat to the Hurricanes in Wellington.
While Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder admitted he was disappointed with Slade's performance he believed his playmaker, who looked rusty after not playing for a month, deserved the opportunity to restore his reputation and didn't deserve to be axed for just one dud performance.
That means Carter won't start in the position he loves most - at No 10 - but just having him on the park gives the Crusaders a player used to pressure situations. He can also stand at first receiver and use his massive boot to kick his side out of strife or call plays when Slade is trapped in rucks.
''By putting him in the midfield it will give us a lot of experience,'' Blackadder said.
''I know that Sladie was disappointed in his game last week and has shown all year that he is better than that.''
Ryan Crotty moves to centre to make way for Carter.
Blackadder has revamped the rest of his backline, bringing Nemani Nadolo, who was unavailable last week because of commitments with Fiji, on to the left wing. Kieron Fonotia, a midfielder, has been moved to the right wing. All Black Israel Dagg, who hasn't played since the first test against England last month, starts at fullback.
Fielding Nadolo and Fonotia on the flanks suggests the Crusaders want to use the bulky players to shut down the attacking force of Frank Halai and Charles Piutau.
''The way the Blues play, if they want to play expansively they are going to get hit hard,'' Blackadder noted.
Blackadder has brought captain Kieran Read back into the starting role of No 8 after bringing him off the bench last weekend.
Blackadder said Read had benefited from being used as a substitute and he has no regrets about not thrusting him into the starting side. There had been no recurrence of the concussion symptoms that have hampered him this season and restricted him to just 40 minutes of the third test against England last month.
''When you talking about two of the best players with a lot of experience it is probably what we lacked last week - just direction and I suppose a little bit of game-sense at crucial times,'' Blackadder said in reference to starting Read and Carter.
''What's really showed throughout this competition is how you deal with your losses, whether you get back on your horse and come out fighting.
''Last week was certainly disappointing. But we are in control of our destiny from here on in.''
Read replaces Luke Whitelock who has been relegated to the reserves. Hooker Ben Funnell replaces Corey Flynn and All Blacks tighthead prop Owen Franks starts ahead of Nepo Laulala.
The Crusaders trained in clear, but frigid, weather today after a snow storm coated the nearby Southern Alps with a thick blanket of snow.
The forecast for Saturday night is for showers and a south-west change.
''I think the weather conditions will play a part too, it could be pretty cold and wet,'' Blackadder added.
''Often that stops that type of football and who can control the ball the best. Quite often that stops that front-foot ball and the ability to attack so it's about who can control the ball and where they play their rugby.''
Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Kieron Fonotia, Ryan Crotty, Dan Carter, Nemani Nadolo, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (c), Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Owen Franks, Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Corey Flynn, Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Jimmy Tupou, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Tom Taylor, Johnny McNicholl