Matt Todd shuns France to stick with Crusaders

TAKING THE HIT: Crusaders No 7 Matt Todd tackles Schalk van der Merwe during their Super Rugby clash at Ellis Park. The Crusaders won 28-7.
TAKING THE HIT: Crusaders No 7 Matt Todd tackles Schalk van der Merwe during their Super Rugby clash at Ellis Park. The Crusaders won 28-7.

Richie McCaw casts a long shadow, yet Matt Todd seems impervious to the threat it poses to his livelihood.

Todd's confirmation to The Press that he has re-signed with the Crusaders seems illogical given that All Blacks captain McCaw, considered one of the greatest openside flankers in the game's history, is competing for the same position at Super Rugby and international level.

Then there is the issue of those wealthy overseas clubs that were interested in Todd as they looked to pre-load rosters before the clamour for five-star players begins in World Cup year.

When it was recently announced France's Top 14 clubs would benefit from a new five-year broadcast deal, reportedly worth more than double their previous agreement, the New Zealand Rugby Union braced itself for an influx of foreign raiders.

For Todd, who earned two test caps as a replacement against France and South Africa last year, this should have been his jackpot.

"Yeah, there was French interest," Todd acknowledges. "They signed a new [broadcasting] deal, so there is a bit of money. It's a nice country and a nice place to live, I guess ...

"You weigh up your options - especially because I have got a young family. I love the Crusaders and New Zealand rugby and didn't want to go overseas. I'm happy here."

Counter-balancing any desire to go overseas was the knowledge he would rule himself out of next year's World Cup.

That, though, is still loaded with risk because All Blacks coach Steve Hansen may not select three openside flankers for the tournament. His loyalty to Sam Cane suggests the Chiefs breakaway is a certainty to back-up McCaw, while Ardie Savea joined last year's northern tour as an apprentice.

In 2011 the All Blacks carried McCaw as their top No 7, while non-specialists Adam Thomson and Victor Vito (who started in the unfamiliar openside role against Canada) provided back-up.

Todd, at 26, maintains there is no need to hurry for the exit door.

"It's like any job. Any time you are offered a pay rise you have to consider it but there's more factors in it - especially at the age I am at now. Perhaps in a few years' time I may think slightly differently but I wouldn't want go overseas and have regrets."

Although added to the All Blacks squad last month as cover for the injured Cane, a specialist openside wasn't wanted on the bench for the England tests - even as McCaw carried a rib injury into the final test in Hamilton.

Todd won't dare say it aloud but everyone knows there is uncertainty whether McCaw's body will hold together through to the World Cup.

He will be several months shy of 35 when the tournament begins and his injuries are becoming more frequent. He suffered a broken thumb (requiring an operation) earlier this season and his rib complaint has forced him out of the Crusaders' post-test fixtures.

Last year's Super Rugby campaign was a write-off for McCaw because of his sabbatical. In the 2011-12 seasons he made 17 appearances but played at No 7 only eight times because Todd needed to be accommodated.

Hansen has a hankering for bigger opensiders who can use their bulk to dominate collisions and although the 103kg Todd may be smaller than his counterparts he has diversified his skill-set by carrying the ball more in recent seasons.

The immediate goal for Todd, who made his Super Rugby debut in 2011, is to finally win a title after losing a grand final and two semis.

"It's about taking your chances. You look at the games where we have gone well, we have had chances and nailed them. And it's the age-old saying - championships are built on defence and we are continually looking to build on that." 

The Press