Give Nadolo a cross-kick and see what happens

17:00, Jul 23 2014
Nemani Nadolo
LEADING THE WAY: Nemani Nadolo's speed and strength has boosted the Crusaders this year - helping to push them to the NZ conference title.

Former All Blacks fullback Greg Cooper can't believe Nemani Nadolo is yet to unwrap one of his deadliest tricks.

Cooper, who coaches Nadolo at his Japanese club NEC Green Rockets, hasn't been surprised the Fijian wing has been a sensation at the Crusaders this season but reckons he can offer even more.

While everyone knows how effective Nadolo can be with the ball in hand, Cooper says one of the best ways to expose defences is to sling cross-kicks to his left wing and reckons there is an 80 per cent chance of scoring if it is executed correctly.

"He is the best winger I have ever seen when taking the ball from cross-kicks," Cooper, speaking from Japan, emphasised.

"At this stage of the season I actually thought he would have three or four cross-kick tries by now and I don't think they have kicked across to him once.

"It's one of his strongest weapons. I would say there is an 80 per cent chance he would score. That's because he is just so good in the air."

Cooper, who played seven tests for the All Blacks between 1986 and 1992, liaised with Crusaders assistant coach Tabai Matson about getting Nadolo to New Zealand and the dividends for both parties have been considerable.

Nadolo, who has scored 10 tries in 10 Super Rugby appearances, has enhanced his reputation - and probably his price tag - while the Crusaders have been able to field a massive finisher who possesses surprisingly good hands for such a big man, and can burst tackles and offload to support runners.

Yet Cooper says there is more he can offer.

Although Dan Carter is expected to start at second five-eighth for Saturday night's semi-final against the Sharks at AMI Stadium, he could switch to first receiver or instruct Colin Slade to back himself by kicking towards Nadolo.

"I suppose it just pure figures; Nemani is 1.96 centimetres tall and he can accelerate into the air and he's got beautiful hands," Cooper maintained.

"I have seen him catch the ball with one hand from a kick, fend someone as he was coming down and bump two guys off as he is going to the corner."

Big, athletic men who can take the high ball are treasured in Super Rugby and Cooper says the only other player who can match Nadolo in the air is the Waratahs' fullback Israel Folau. After leaving the NRL Folau had a crack at Aussie Rules and then switched to rugby.

Opposition sides, says Cooper, have nightmares when trying to defend the cross-kick against big, co-ordinated outside backs.

"It's really hard for a fullback, if the winger is really wide, to defuse that because it creates a gap somewhere else.

"It just separates the defensive line so that they are thinking 'what's going on here?' and you have seen it in recent games where [Ryan] Crotty has broken the line because Nems has carried one way and three or four guys have been carried into that ruck.

"He's getting a lot more attention now. He might not get the linebreaks but it's opening up everywhere else now."


The Press